Who Will be Pakistan’s Next Army Chief

(From L to R) Lt Gen Zubair Hayat, Lt Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa, Lt Gen Javed Iqbal Ramday and Lt Gen Ishfaq Nadeem Ahmed are Pakistan Army’s senior-most officers, one of whom is expected to replace General Raheel Sharif, who is retiring next month.
(From L to R) Lt Gen Zubair Hayat, Lt Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa, Lt Gen Javed Iqbal Ramday and Lt Gen Ishfaq Nadeem Ahmed are Pakistan Army’s senior-most officers, one of whom is expected to replace General Raheel Sharif, who is retiring next month.

In 1975 PM Zulfikar Ali Bhutto re-named the Commander-in-Chief (C-in-C), the Army’s Head, as Chief of Army Staff (COAS), subordinate to the mainly created Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee (JCSC). His stated vision to have a modern integrated Armed Forces was correct, the real reason was to stave off possible military coup de etats by creating another power center. When push came to shove in 1977, the Chairman JCSC was powerless to stop the COAS from declaring Martial Law. The COAS today remains the C-in-C in all but name.

 

Consider my article “Just Say No” of Aug 29, 2016, “Gen Raheel Shareef should have no illusions, despite having performed as an Army Chief well “over and beyond the call of duty”, that the government has any intention whatsoever of extending his tenure.  Mired in controversy, not the least being Panama Leaks, PML (N) are desperate to maintain status quo till Raheel Shareef retires in Nov 2016,” unquote.  Imran Khan’s proposed “Bandh” of Islamabad is an added pressure.  Easily the best COAS we have ever had, Gen Waheed Kakar said ‘no’ to PM Benazir’s request to take an “extension” for one year in 1995 because it would set off a chain reaction blocking promotions in the army. To quote Gen Kakar, “However loyal and sincere the senior military hierarchy may be, potential aspirants would feel deprived of their turn at attaining the top slot for which rightfully they had ambitions (and worked for) throughout their career. Many capable officers would retire from service, putting an artificial monkey wrench into a natural process”.

 

Zardari exploited the chink in Kayani’s armour to the hilt, his siblings’ business activities forced Kayani to not only compromise with Zardari’s blatant corruption but gloss over important matters of State. No close relative should have any business with the Armed Forces, the ISI, the SPD, etc, anything the COAS can influence, directly or indirectly. For Musharraf personal loyalty carried more weightage than merit, Kayani mostly, and Raheel Sharif always, chose good “three stars” on merit.  Professionally competent, today’s Lt Gens all have experienced combat through various ranks. Due diligence should look for negative aspects, if any, during the individual’s performance as Corps Commander and as a Principal Staff Officer (PSO).  Clearing the “Kayani Litmus Test”, the principle of seniority is enshrined in law as in the case of the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court (the Jehadi Trust case), the proviso being that the reasons for supersession must be spelt out in writing.

 

Somebody immature, (possibly) a “non-state actor” from within the PML (N) hierarchy, planted the fabricated story meant to put Raheel Sharif, and by default, the Army under pressure.  This reverse “swing” will give the COAS leverage to effect a compromise would be an unmitigated disaster.  Whoever is guilty of force-multiplying enemy propaganda must be held accountable for damaging the national fabric, the betrayal cannot be brushed away.  An open season would have many Cyril Almeida clones coming out of the woodworks. Pervez Rasheed has targeted the Army before, however someone senior sanctioned this great lie, he and Wani cannot be made sacrificial lambs.  For starters the person (or persons) security clearance(s) must be immediately revoked, barring them forthwith from public office.

 

The higher national purpose requires the government to correct the anomaly for which the JCSC was created in 1975. To quote my paper on “Fighting 21st Century Wars”, “Any war with India, a life-and-death struggle with an implacable foe, will be fast and furious, and for a limited period. While it will be influenced by the air and the sea, it will finally be won or lost on the ground.  An all-powerful Chairman JCSC was meant to exercise overall control over the defense services”, unquote.  With a vast majority of the populace wanting him to continue serving the country, Gen Raheel Shareef could make the vitally necessary transition to a unified command headquartered in GHQ. Personal aims superseding the national interest is a “win-win” situation for Pakistan” not likely to happen.

 

The Sharifs cannot tolerate anyone who does not jump to do their bidding without question. The Sharifs tend to select a “favorite” for crucial appointments like they would their “factory managers”. Twice they have passed over the most deserving Sartaj Aziz for President, selecting far lesser mortals like Rafiq Tarar and Mamnoon Hussain.  Tarar failed the test when Musharraf took over, will Mamnoon be any different when push comes to shove?  Despite giving some judgments against the Sharifs and the Punjab government, Justice Syed Mansoor Ali Shah was elevated to Chief Justice (CJ) of the Lahore High Court (LHC), eminent lawyer Babar Sattar calling it “a miracle”.   Given their ingrained complex about Army Chiefs, the Sharifs keeping the national interest supreme will run counter to their normal pattern in appointing the COAS Pakistan will happily accept another miracle.

 

Both Wajid and Najibullah not having commanded a corps, the eligible line of seniority has all very competent professional soldiers in Zubair Hayat, Ishfaq Nadeem, Javed Ramday and Qamar Bajwa in that order. Raheel Sharif may be convinced given our present security circumstances to serve for another year, appointing either Zubair or Ramday as the Chairman JCSC (or vice versa) and a four star Vice Chief of Army Staff (VCOAS).  The Machiavellian theory holds that one year later, Naveed Mukhtar, very distantly related to the Sharifs, will be in line for promotion. The assumption is that the selected COAS will be a pushover the Sharifs want. They can do any number of permutations and combinations, Naveed is an outstanding professional soldier with first loyalty to the country and the Army. Would the short lived COAS Ziauddin Butt been different? Not the Ziauddin Butt I knew as a gentlemen cadet and as an outstanding officer and gentleman! Inculcating the accumulated feelings of the rank and file of the Pakistan Army, the vital interests of the country and the Army supercedes everything as soon as the individual who becomes COAS sits in his chair.

 

My own preference is third in seniority Javed Ramday from my unit 4 Sindh, one has a soft corner for Qamar Bajwa, like Ramday another outstanding soldier.  However the overwhelming feedback from a vast cross-section of serving and retired Army rank and file is that the national interest requires the order of seniority over-riding any personal interest. Given that caveat that we are selecting a COAS Pakistan Army and not choosing a factory manager, Zubair should be the Chairman JCSC and Ishfaq Nadeem the COAS.

The writer is a defense and security analyst.

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