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LAHORE: Of the 13 native commander-in-chief/army chiefs that Pakistan has had since 1947, seniority factor has visibly been ignored in almost all such appointments, unlike what happens in the leading armies of the world where the only accepted norm for these promotions is the length of service.
Although there are a couple of exceptions, almost every Pakistani Premier and head of state has seemingly used his prerogative in all such promotions related to the army chiefs, a research by this correspondent reveals.
Excluding the first two commanders-in-chief, who were British India army officers, the history of promotions starting from the time of the first native military boss Ayub Khan to the most recent appointment of Lt. General Raheel Sharif, who too was third on the seniority list before being “crowned,” seniority factor has rarely been taken into consideration by any Pakistani ruler.
Brigadier (R) A. R. Siddiqui, a noted defence analyst and a former Director General of the Directorate of Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) between March 1967 and November 1973, had argued in one of his 2004 articles:” It is to be noted that for promotions from rank of major and above, seniority is counted as only one major factor. These are all ‘selection’ promotions that depend on several other factors. Some of these are: professional competence, personal character, loyalty, work attitude, number of courses passed and, above all, grades earned in the annual confidential reports (ACRs) prepared by their superior officers.”
In this above-quoted article, which was written after General Pervez Musharraf had announced he would consider and name his successor before he stepped down as the army chief in December 2004, A. R. Siddiqui had further opined: “All promotions above the rank of major and up to major- general must go through the annual GHQ selection board held during the formation commanders’ conference. Promotions to the rank of
lieutenant-general and general remain the exclusive privilege of the president/prime minister at the recommendation of the army chief.”
Research undertaken by this correspondent hence shows that during the last 66 years and three months, not fewer than 15 top soldiers, including two British Indian army officers, have held the command of the Pakistani land forces.
Pakistan’s first Commander-in-Chief was General Sir Frank Walter Messervy (1893–1974), who was a British Indian Army officer in both First and Second World Wars. General Frank had served as the first Commander of Pakistan Army from August 15, 1947 to February 10, 1948 and was granted the honorary rank of general on retirement.
He is known to have defied the orders of then Governor General of Pakistan, Quaid-i-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah, on certain issues like dispatching troops to Held Kashmir.Most historians agree that Sir Frank Walter Messervy was hence sacked by Quaid-i-Azam for insubordination. He had served for less than six months or 175 days only to be more precise.
The second Commander-in-Chief, General Sir Douglas David Gracey (1894–1964), was another British Indian Army officer who had taken part in both the First and Second World Wars. General Gracey had served as the second Commander-in-Chiefof the Pakistan Army between February 11, 1948 and January 16, 1951 for two years, 11 months and 5 days.
Like his predecessor General Frank Messervy, General Gracey too was guilty of not sending troops to the Kashmir front despite standing orders from Quaid-i-Azam.
General Gracey had reportedly argued that Quaid-i-Azam as Governor-General represented the British Crown of which he himself was an appointee. Pakistan’s third Army Commander, Ayub Khan (1907-1974), was appointed as the country’s first native Commander-in-Chief in 1951 by then Prime Minister Liaquat Ali Khan.
When Ayub Khan was handed over reins of Pakistani Army, there were a few senior general officers in-line of promotion for this assignment.
These officers were Major General Iftikhar Khan, Major General Ishfakul Majid, Major General Akbar Khan and Major General N.A.M. Raza.
Initially, it was General Iftikhar Khan who was promoted to four-star rank and appointed as first native Chief of the Army staff, but he died in an airplane crash en route to United Kingdom.
A study of Sartaj Aziz’s book “Between dreams and realities: Some milestones in Pakistan’s history” and Brigadier A.R. Siddiqui’s afore-cited article also reveals that when Ayub Khan had superseded him, General Akbar happened to be the senior most general officer of the Pakistan Army. His personal number was PA-I.
However, as the above-mentioned credible references shed enough light, the then Defence Secretary (later President) Iskandar Mirza had gone on to play a key role in Ayub’s promotion and had reportedly convinced Liaquat Ali Khan to appoint him to this esteemed slot.
A self-appointed Field Marshal, the only such five-star rank in Pakistan’s military history, Ayub Khan was also the second President of Pakistan and its first military dictator from 1958 until his forced resignation in 1969. As Army Chief, Ayub had served between January 17, 1951 and October 26, 1958. His tenure as Army Chief had lasted seven years, 9 months and 9 days.
General Musa Khan (1908-1991) then succeeded Ayub Khan, who had gone on to assume the Presidency of Pakistan. The promotion of General Musa saw suppression of seniors, namely Major General Sher Ali Khan Pataudi and Major General Latif Khan, both course mates in 1933.
Brigadier A.R. Siddiqui writes: “Ayub’s successor General Musa’s promotion over the head of two of his seniors - major-generals Sher Ali Khan and Latif Khan, both commissioned from Sandhurst in 1933 - caused much bad blood and bitter controversy. Sher Ali and Latif Khan both resigned. However, while Sher Ali stood retired, Latif took back his resignation at the personal intercession of Ayub. Musa was commissioned from the Indian Military Academy (first course) in 1935, but had his service in the ranks count towards full seniority as well as pension to gain an advantage over the two senior generals.”
While General Musa’s autobiography “Jawan to General” describes his lifetime experiences from a simple foot-soldier rising to become a general, it also mentions many facts about his professional career.
The term of General Musa had lasted around 7 years and 11 months. After he had retired from the Army, President Ayub had appointed him as the Governor of West Pakistan from 1967 to 1969.
In 1985, he was once again involved in politics. He was appointed Governor of Balochistan by the then President General Zia-ul-Haq.
In Balochistan, Governor General Musa dissolved the provincial assembly in December 1988. However, the Balochistan High Court restored the assembly amid public condemnation of Governor’s move.
General Musa Khan was succeeded by General Agha Yahya Khan (1917-1980), who was appointed the country’s fifth Army Commander on June 18, 1966, a post he had held till December 20, 1971.
His tenure as Army Chief was 5 years, 3 months and 2 days long. He had also served as the 3rd President of Pakistan from 1969 until East Pakistan’s secession in 1971. He had declared martial law for the second time in Pakistan’s history.
At the time of his promotion, General Yahya had superseded two of his seniors, Lt General Altaf Qadir and Lt General Bakhtiar Rana.
In December 1971, during his tenure, East Pakistan had seceded to become Bangladesh. Yahya had then handed over the presidency to Bhutto and had stepped down as Army Chief in disgrace.
Bhutto had stripped Yahya of all previous military decorations and placed him under house arrest for most of the 1970s. When Bhutto was overthrown in a military coup in 1977, Yahya was released by General Zia.
Pakistan Army’s sixth Commander-in-Chief was Lt. General Gul Hassan Khan (1921- 1999) from December 20, 1971 to March 3, 1972.
Gul Hassan had superseded his senior, Lt. General Tikka Khan. Actually he was the last Army Commander-in-Chief of the Pakistan Army. Those who succeeded him were called Chiefs of Army Staff.
General Gul Hassan had the shortest tenure as Commander-in-Chief of Pakistan Army and was deposed by the then President Zulfikar Ali Bhutto after the Hamoodur Rahman Commission had recommended his ouster.
Inclusive of his tenure as Acting Commander-in-Chief, General Gul Hassan had served on this post for just 2 months and 11 days.
In a trial led by JAG Branch of Pakistan Army, General Hassan Khan was immediately retired from the Army and further relieved from any benefits given to the retired officers.
Brigadier A. R. Siddiqui maintains: “He (Gul Hassan) was summarily retired by President Zulfikar Ali Bhutto on March 2, 1972 in spite of his confirmed three-year tenure as C-in-C. Bhutto promoted Tikka Khan as full general and appointed him as chief of the army staff (COAS) instead of C-in-C. Tikka’s promotion to full general, as a superseded lieutenant-general, remains the only example of its kind on the Pakistan Army list.” General Tikka Khan (1915-2002) was the seventh head of Pakistan Army.
He had served between March 3, 1972 and March 1, 1976.
After his tenure had ended in March 1976, Tikka Khan was appointed Defence Minister by the then Premier Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto. As Army Chief, he had served just two days less than 4 years.
General Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq’s July 1977 coup had led to the arrest of both Bhutto and General Tikka Khan. While Bhutto was executed in 1979, General Tikka had gone on to emerge as one of the leaders of the Pakistan People’s Party.
General Ziaul Haq (1924-1988), who also remains Pakistan’s longest-serving head of state with a rule spread over 11 years, was also promoted ahead of senior Lieutenant Generals Muhammad Shariff, Akbar Khan, Aftab Ahmed Khan, Azmat Baksh Awan, Agha Ibrahim Akram, Abdul Majeed Malik and Ghulam Jilani Khan. The then Premier Zulfikar Ali Bhutto had opted to choose the most junior of the lot though.
General Zia had thus superseded seven senior lieutenant-generals. The senior most at that time, Lt. General Shariff, was promoted as a General and was made the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee.
As Army Chief, Zia had remained in office for 12 years, 5 months and 16 days. He had declared the third martial law in the country’s history in 1977 after deposing an elected Premier Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. Zia was also the sixth President of Pakistan.
Brigadier A.R. Siddiqui has viewed: “An ex-ISI chief and politically-oriented, General Akbar was distrusted and seen as a potential coup-maker both by Bhutto and his personal secretary Afzal Saeed Khan. He was rejected out of hand. After detailed consultation with his personal staff, Bhutto chose the senior-most Gen Sharif and junior-most Gen Zia, respectively, to be chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee and the Chief of the Army Staff - a clean sweep of the seniority list. Zia’s vice-chiefs of staff, Sawar, Iqbal and Arif - all full generals - retired without making the top slot. General Mirza Aslam Beg, the incumbent vice-chief at the time of the Bahawalpur crash, hit his lucky patch and made it to the top.”
General Mirza Aslam Beg (born 1931) was appointed Pakistan’s ninth Army Chief after General Zia’s death on August 17, 1988, a post he had held till August 16, 1991. His tenure had lasted just 16 days less than 4 years.
General Beg was denied an extension by the then President Ghulam Ishaq Khan in 1991.
At the time of his elevation as Army Chief, he was serving as Vice Chief of the Army Staff.
General Asif Nawaz Janjua (1937-1993) was the 10th Chief of Army Staff from August 16, 1991 till his sudden death in office on January 8, 1993. His term as Army Chief had lasted just one year, four months and 22 days.
Various reputed international media outlets like “The Independent,” the “New York Times,” the “Economist” and the “Asian recorder” etc had reported that at the completion of three-year term of General Beg, four generals were in the race to replace him.
These generals included Lt General Shamim Alam Khan, Lt General Asif Nawaz, Lt General Zulfiqar Akhtar Naz and Lt General Hamid Gull.
While the senior two (General Zulfikar and General Hamid Gul) were promoted as four-star generals, Shamim Alam Khan was named as Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee.
General Asif Nawaz, who also came recommended by General Rahimuddin Khan, was finally appointed the Chief of Army Staff to replace Aslam Beg on June 11, 1991 by the then President Ghulam Ishaq Khan.
General Janjua had suffered a heart attack while he was jogging near his Rawalpindi home. He is widely remembered as having died under mysterious circumstances. His widow had demanded an investigation and registration of a murder case. Former DG ISI General Asad Durrani had supported probe in this case.
In the words of Brigadier A. R. Siddiqui, “Amongst General Beg’s successors, Asif Nawaz died while still half way through his tenure, Wahid Kakar completed his tenure, and Jehangir Karamat was summarily retired by Nawaz Sharif in October 1998 - just about four months short of completing his tenure. He yielded place to Lt Gen Pervez Musharraf, Commander, I Corps, Mangla. It would be seen that seniority hardly had a part to play in any of the above promotions. Except perhaps for Jehangir Karamat, all others were placed way down the seniority list.”
General Abdul Wahid Kakar (born 1937) was made the 11th Chief of Army Staff on January 12, 1993 and had held the office till January 12, 1996. His tenure as Army Chief was exactly three years long.
According to journalist Maleeha Lodhi, who has also served as Pakistan’s former Ambassador to the United States and United Kingdom, at least four senior generals were superseded with General Kakar’s appointment.
In one of her books “Pakistan’s encounter with democracy,” which was printed by renowned Geo Television anchor Najam Aziz Sethi’s publishing house “Vanguard” in 1994, the generals superseded by Waheed Kakar were Rehm Dil Bhatti, Mohammad Ashraf, Farrakh Khan and Arif Bangash. Among these generals, the last two had opted to stay in the Army.
In one of his March 2009 columns “Here we go again,” the late Ardeshir Cowasjee had also touched on this subject.
After taking over as Army Chief, General Kakar had forced both Ghulam Ishaq Khan and Nawaz Sharif to tender their resignations at the height of the 1993 constitutional crisis.
General Jehangir Karamat (born 1941) was made the 12th Chief of the Army Staff on January 12, 1996 and had held this office till October 7, 1998. He had served on this slot for 2 years, 8 months and 25 days. He later became Chairman of Joint Chiefs in 1997.
He is also one of very few army generals in the military history of Pakistan to have relinquished charge over a disagreement with civilian authorities.
Karamat was appointed the Chief of Army Staff by the then-Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, who had given the green signal before the outgoing Army Chief General Kakar’s three-year term was about to expire.
Karamat was the senior most general at that time, and therefore at promotion to four-star general, he had superseded none.
There were four senior generals in the race to replace General Waheed Kakar as the Army Chief.
These generals were Jehangir Karamat, Nasir Akhtar, Muhammad Tariq and Javed ashraf Qazi.
Noted defence a nalyst Shuja Nawaz’s book “Crossed swords: Pakistan, its Army, and the wars within,” Mazhar Aziz’s book “Military control in Pakistan: the parallel state”and a BBC report of October 8, 1998 contain a lot of material on this issue.
In 2004, General Jehangir Karamat was appointed as Pakistan’s Ambassador to the United States where he served from November 2004 until June 2006.
General Pervez Musharraf (born 1943) was the 13th Chief of Army Staff from October 6, 1998 till November 28, 2007.
He served as Army Chief for 9 years, one month and 22 days. Nawaz Sharif had preferred him to General Ali Quli Khan and General Khalid Nawaz Khan.
He had also served as country’s 10th President from June 2001 to August 2008.
The out-going 14th Pakistan Army Chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani was the first four-star officer to receive a term extension from any democratic government.
Born on April 20, 1952, General Kayani had joined the Pakistan Army on August 29, 1971 and retired on November 28, 2013. As Army Chief, he had served for 6 years.
President Musharraf had appointed him as the Vice Chief of the Army Staff in 2007.
At the time of his promotion, Kayani had superseded Lt. General Khalid Kidwai, who was on an extension for one year.
General Kayani was the first four-star officer in the history of Pakistan who had held the position of director of ISI and then went on to become the Army Chief.
The last time a Director-General of the ISI was to be made an Army Chief was in 1999, when the then Premier Nawaz Sharif had nodded in favour of General Ziauddin Butt.
The Army had then staged a coup to reinstate the proposed outgoing Army Chief General Musharraf.
Numerous global newspapers and magazines like the “Newsweek,” the “New York Times,” the “Washington Post,” the “Los Angeles Times” and the “Wall Street Journal” etc have all written a lot about General Kayani’s promotion as Army Chief.