Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif will soon anoint from among the three star contenders the successor to General Raheel Sharif and the new Chief of the Army Staff (COAS) and, willy-nilly, the person around whom the Pakistani state will revolve for the next three-odd years (should he follow Raheel’s example and without much ceremony demit office on completing his tenure).
As per Dawn story of Aug 15, 2016 (at http://www.dawn.com/news/1277442) the seniority list reads as under:
1) Lt Gen Maqsood Ahmed, Military Adviser UN Department of Peacekeeping Military Operations,
2) Lt Gen Zubair Hayat, Chief of General Staff, retiring in Jan 2017
3) Lt Gen Syed Wajid Hussain, Chairman Heavy Industries Taxila, retiring in Jan 2017
4) Lt Gen Najibullah Khan, DG Joint Staff Headquarters, retiring in Jan 2017
5) Lt Gen Ishfaq Nadeem Ahmed GOC, II Corps, Multan, retiring in Aug 2017
6) Lt Gen Javed Iqbal Ramday Commander XXXI Corps Bahawalpur Aug 2017
7) Lt Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa Inspector General Training & Evaluation Aug 2017
Maqsood and Syed are out of the running, the former because he is on extension and unlikely to give up on a cushy UN job with great retirement benefits, and a US residency to boot, and the latter because well he is not in a bonafide army post.
Among the remaining five, Zubair Hayat (who looks a bit like Anupam Kher in specs) from the artillery arm is believed to be the favourite, having also pulled time in other significant posts — GOC, II Corps, and DG, Strategic Plans Division (SPD) — the nuclear all-in-all organization in that country. If the odds are beaten and Hayat misses becoming COAS, then Najibullah from Hayat’s batch too will be overlooked.
Among Nadeem, Ramday, and Bajwa, bringing up the next senior echelon and the Aug 2017 batch of prospective retirees, Nadeem is the “soldier’s soldier” — besides commanding Pakistan’s Strike Corps, and the officer Raheel picked to be his Chief of Defence Staff (a post he later traded with Hayat not too long ago). He was previously DG, Military Operations, at GHQR, and, prior to that, as a Brigadier, was chief of staff of the Mangla Corps. An infantryman, his parent unit, interestingly, is the Azad Kashmir Regiment. Undoubtedly, Nadeem would appear to be Raheel’s choice for COAS. Except Nawaz has to the deciding and has had mixed luck with picking army chiefs.
The Pak Prime Minister has picked five of the seven army chiefs after Zia ul-Haq — Asif Nawaz Janjua (in 1991), Waheed Kakar (in 1993), Gen Pervez Musharraf (in 1998) and Gen Raheel Sharif (in 2013). To the PM’s credit his selections, Janjua and Kakar were gentlemen and constitutionalists, who believed in remaining secondary to the elected political authority. Musharraf was the bad egg who proved right the late General Tikka Khan’s observation about Pakistani heads of government unerringly picking their nemesis. Zulfikar Ali Bhutto chose the person featured last on the succession/seniority list of top dozen drawn up by Tikka, Zia ul-Haq. The clever Zia had done his homework well in the run-up to his selection and, as Tikka told me when I visited him at his home in Rawalpindi in December 1982 — my first trip to Pakistan, he laid the flattery on thick when Bhutto visited HQ 1st Armrd Division. There, in front of the assembled officers and men, Zia took out a copy of the Koran wrapped in green silk and, with his hand on the holy book, swore his eternal loyalty to the foolish Zulfi, a sucker for flattery. A flabbergasted Tikka, quite aware of Zia’s “chaploosi and tricks” as he called it, repeatedly pleaded with Bhutto to pick almost anybody else from his list of twelve. But Bhutto chose wrong. “Jab qayamat aati hai, kaun roke sakta hai” said a rueful Tikka to me. He was then under ‘House arrest’ imposed by his successor, and loudly abused Zia in choicest Punjabi when seeing me off within the earshot of the MI staffers and Mil Police doing pehra at the gate. I was in Islamabad to attend, along with Inder Gujral and K. Subrahmanyam, a Pak Army arranged affair billed as the “First Conference on Peace and Security in South Asia”. How time has passed and how little things have changed!
Nawaz made a similar mistake with Musharraf except, as it was bruited about in Islamabad circles, the PM was much impressed by the former SSG officer’s quality of no-nonsense directness, without keying on his over weaning ambition, which wasn’t a secret in army corridors. Bhutto paid for his bad choice with his life. Lucky Nawaz, it only cost him a stint as an exile in Riyadh.
Nawaz has to calculate that if Raheel’s top choice, Nadeem, is anything like his mentor, he can be relied on to go professionally about his business without ever entertaining thoughts about deploying the 111 (coup) Brigade. Except, it is precisely his professionalism and attainments in closing down a good part of the ISI-supported terrorist state apparatus, fighting the religious extremists in FATA and North Waziristan, and clamping down on the ever troublesome London-based Altaf Hussain’s MQM that not too long ago ran Karachi that Raheel may turn into political gold. He could be the the PM nominee of a political party and defeat the ruling Muslim League (N) in the next general elections. Whence, the advice to Nawaz from some quarters to confer a Field Marshal’s baton on Raheel and shove him to the sideline. As an FM he doesn’t ever retire, but equally he cannot go political either!
Hayat, in the event, would seem to be the safer selection. But Nadeem, the hardened military professional, appears (dispassionately speaking) the better choice for Pakistan at this time in its evolution as a state where the army is getting accustomed to playing second fiddle to the political masters. But is Nawaz feeling confident enough to appoint Nadeem?