ISLAMABAD: Who will get the cane of command of the Pakistan Army – the senior-most general or any of his juniors? The answer is just hours away.
The decision to select the most senior or a junior is to be taken by Prime Minister NawazSharif as empowered under the Constitution. However, he declared some weeks before the May general elections that the senior-most general should become the army chief.
The two leading aspirants, Lt Gen Mohammad Haroon Aslam and Lt Gen Rashad Mahmood, for the top slot are due to retire on the same date, April 9, 2014, meaning that they are equal in seniority, as per the information of Wikipedia.
Like these two officers, the three other lieutenant generals in order of seniority, Raheel Sharif (brother of Major Shabbir Sharif Shaheed, Nishan-e-Haider), Tariq Khan and Zaheerul Islam will also retire the same year, 2014.
The first three Khakis hail from the Punjab, more precisely two from Lahore and one from Gujrat, and so is the officer, Zaheerul Islam, on number five of the order of seniority, who comes from the Rawalpindi district. However, Tariq Khan comes from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP).
The appointing authority has the power to nominate the senior most or a junior lieutenant general as the military chief. Its decision to pick up a junior may be disputed by some on different grounds but there is no prohibition for the prime minister as per the law and Constitution.
Some junior lieutenant generals, who were opted for by the civilian leaders to become their army chiefs after their promotion as four-star generals, had, however, imposed martial laws and made the lives of their benefactors hell.
Nawaz Sharif as prime minister had chosen Pervez Musharraf, superseding his two seniors, and what the general did with him is before everybody, needing no elaboration.
Zulfikar Ali Bhutto went for Ziaul Haq, who was junior to five lieutenant generals including Abdul Majeed Malik, who later became a politician, and his treatment with his patron is an open secret.
While dismissing Musharraf on October 12, 1999, Nawaz Sharif named Ziauddin Butt as the army chief, who was on number five of the seniority list. But Butt could not survive as the military chief as Musharraf imposed a martial law.
On the other hand, Musharraf’s predecessor Jehangir Karamat was appointed as the army chief by Benazir Bhutto, and he deserved the post as he was the senior-most lieutenant general at the time. He was shown the door by Nawaz Sharif before the end of his tenure.
Abdul Waheed Kakar was on number three on the seniority list of lieutenant generals but was preferred for the prestigious office. He was not the material that would impose martial law although he did get a good opportunity because of a mutually-destructive fight between the then President, Ghulam Ishaq Khan (GIK), and Nawaz Sharif in 1993. He disentangled them, paving the way for fresh general elections.
Asif Nawaz was the senior-most lieutenant general, when he was made the army chief by GIK and Nawaz Sharif. His relations with the then prime minister touched the lowest ebb a few months before his sudden death and he was then all set to intervene.
Mirza Aslam Beg was the senior most, in fact, vice chief of the army staff when Ziaul Haq was killed in a plane crash. He was quickly elevated as the military chief at the height of crisis caused by the sudden demise of the army chief.
A few months before his due date of retirement, Beg too appeared menacing, flexing his muscles to intervene, and the then civilian leadership, GIK and Nawaz Sharif, was so scared of his threatened action that Asif Nawaz was elevated as the army chief before the due retirement date of the incumbent.
As per the official procedure, the Defence Ministry is to send a panel of three senior-most lieutenant generals for appointment of the army chief, and Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee (CJCSC) on the same lines, including names from the Pakistan Navy and Pakistan Air Force, obviously those of their chiefs.