Pass­ing the Ba­ton

Ap­point­ing the next COAS and CJCSC coud prove quite a night­mare for Prime Min­is­ter Nawaz Sharif as he has burnt his fin­gers on three pre­vi­ous oc­ca­sions, but con­ti­nu­ity must be main­tained and the ba­ton passed on.

Southasia - - COVER STORY - By S. M. Hali

One of the most chal­leng­ing de­ci­sions Mian Nawaz Sharif has to take in the com­ing weeks, by virtue of his con­sti­tu­tional pow­ers, is find­ing suit­able re­place­ments for the Chair­man Joint Chiefs of Staff Com­mit­tee (CJCSC) and the Chief of Army Staff ( COAS). Gen­eral Khalid Shameem Wyne, the cur­rent CJCSC is due to re­tire on Oc­to­ber 6, 2013, while the ex­tended term of of­fice for the present COAS, Gen­eral Ash­faq Parvez Kayani, is ter­mi­nat­ing on Novem­ber 28, 2013.

In nor­mal cir­cum­stances, the ap­point­ments should have been a rou­tine pro­ce­dure but con­sid­er­ing Nawaz Sharif’s pre­vi­ous un­pleas­ant ex­pe­ri­ences in the se­lec­tion of the COAS, it is im­per­a­tive for him to take the right de­ci­sion. He has tra­versed this road three times, each end­ing in a fi­asco for him. His 1993 choice of Gen­eral Ab­dul Wa­heed Kakar, num­ber four in se­nior­ity, forced the Pres­i­dent and Prime Min­is­ter to re­sign, pre­cip­i­tat­ing the 1993 gen­eral elec­tions, which Nawaz Sharif lost. In 1998, Sharif opted for Gen­eral Parvez Mushar­raf, third in se­nior­ity – in a bid to se­cure his back – ap­point­ing a COAS sans po­lit­i­cal back­ing. Kargil hap­pened and Nawaz Sharif’s third at­tempt at ap­point­ing an Army Chief af­ter “sack­ing” Mushar­raf was botched when he tried to prop up Lieu­tenant Gen­eral Zi­aud­din Butt, from the back­door – re­sult­ing in a coup d’ état de­pos­ing, in­car­cer­at­ing and ex­il­ing Nawaz Sharif for ten years.

The in­ces­sant ter­ror at­tacks, In­dian hos­til­i­ties at the LOC spurn­ing peace over­tures by Nawaz Sharif, US troops’ draw­down from Afghanistan and for­eign re­la­tions im­per­a­tives, ne­ces­si­tate a clear un­der­stand­ing be­tween the civil and mil­i­tary, obli­gat­ing pru­dent de­ci­sions.

The ap­point­ment of the new CJCSC which would oc­cur ear­lier and may be less com­pli­cated since the PM has to se­lect a suit­able of­fi­cer from the three Ser­vices. Con­ceiv­ably, with­out rock­ing the boat for ei­ther the cur­rent Naval or Air Chiefs, who are mid­stream of their al­lo­cated terms, it would be prac­ti­cal to pre­clude in­ter-Ser­vice ro­ta­tion and ap­point the se­nior-most serv­ing Army of­fi­cer to the post of CJCSC, which is mainly a cer­e­mo­nial post, de­void of power.

The Army se­nior­ity list de­picts Lieu­tenant Gen­eral Ha­roon As­lam on top. If Mian Sahib is to be taken for his word: “I’ll go by the book. I’ll go by the merit. Whoso­ever is the most se­nior would oc­cupy the job. The next one, the next in line”, then Ha­roon As­lam is the choice for CJSC or COAS. The as­pects, be­sides se­nior­ity, which en­hance his el­i­gi­bil­ity, are that he has served as the Di­rec­tor Gen­eral Mil­i­tary Op­er­a­tions, Com­manded the XXXI Corps at Bahawalpur and ably led the dar­ing Op­er­a­tion Rah-e-Rast

in 2009 in Swat. Fight­ing bravely in Piochar Val­ley, he lib­er­ated that area from lo­cal and in­ter­na­tional ter­ror­ists. The char­ac­ter­is­tics of his ca­reer, which may raise ques­tions in the mind of the PM, are that he com­manded the elite force Di­vi­sion, the Spe­cial Ser­vices Group (SSG). Hav­ing suf­fered at the hands of an­other Com­mando, Gen­eral Parvez Mushar­raf, Nawaz Sharif may be in­clined to side­line him. An­other rel­a­tively neg­a­tive con­sid­er­a­tion maybe the cur­rent as­sign­ment of Lieu­tenant Gen­eral Ha­roon; he is the Chief of Lo­gis­tics Staff (CLS), which is vir­tu­ally con­sid­ered the boon­docks.

The sec­ond gen­eral in line of se­nior­ity is Lieu­tenant Gen­eral Rashad Mah­mood, who was ear­lier this year el­e­vated to the key post of Chief of Gen­eral Staff (CGS). Eight of the last 13 army chiefs had served as CGS prior to be­com­ing a four-star Gen­eral.

Rashad’s ac­cept­abil­ity stems from var­i­ous fac­tors. He com­manded the IV Corps at La­hore – base of the Shar­ifs – hails from La­hore and may have cur­ried favours with them. Ad­di­tion­ally, he served as Mil­i­tary Sec­re­tary to the Sharif’s choice of Pres­i­dent, Rafiq Tarar. He be­longs to the Baloch reg­i­ment, par­ent arm of the cur­rent in­cum­bent COAS, hav­ing served as his deputy in ISI and be­ing po­si­tioned as CGS by Kayani, per­haps to ul­ti­mately re­place him­self as the Army Chief. Rashad also re­mained aide-de-camp (ADC) to for­mer Army Chief Gen­eral As­lam Beg, who was de­clared cul­pa­ble by the Supreme Court in the As­ghar Khan case for craft­ing the Is­lami Jamhoori It­te­had (IJI) and ma­nip­u­lat­ing the 1990 polls, which cat­a­pulted Nawaz Sharif into power at the cen­tre for the first time.

Rashad may lose out on the fac­tor of “fa­mil­iar­ity breeds con­tempt” and the Shar­ifs may be more com­fort­able with some­one who has less pull on their reins as we wit­nessed in their choice for the next Pres­i­dent, ig­nor­ing Sar­taj Aziz and Ghaus Ali Shah.

This leads us to num­ber three, the safe bet: Lieu­tenant Gen­eral Ra­heel Sharif, cur­rently In­spec­tor Gen­eral Train­ing and Eval­u­a­tion at the GHQ. He too is a ca­reer of­fi­cer like choices Numéro uno and deux, Ha­roon and Rashad, hav­ing com­manded the XXX Corps at Gu­jran­wala and held the pres­ti­gious post of Com­man­dant

Lieu­tenant Gen­eral Tariq Khan, Com­man­der of # 1 Strike Corps, Mangla, suc­cess­fully led counter-in­sur­gency op­er­a­tions in the Fed­er­ally Ad­min­is­tered Tribal Ar­eas as In­spec­tor Gen­eral of the Fron­tier Corps.

Pak­istan Mil­i­tary Acad­emy, Kakul. Val­our runs in his fam­ily – he is the younger brother of Nis­han-i-Haider re­cip­i­ent Ma­jor Shab­bir Sharif Sha­heed.

Glanc­ing down the se­nior­ity list, at num­ber four is the dark horse in the race: Lieu­tenant Gen­eral Tariq Khan, Com­man­der of # 1 Strike Corps, Mangla, suc­cess­fully led counter-in­sur­gency op­er­a­tions in the Fed­er­ally Ad­min­is­tered Tribal Ar­eas as In­spec­tor Gen­eral of the Fron­tier Corps. He is re­spected by even the Amer­i­cans, who have con­ferred on him the mil­i­tary award of US Le­gion of Merit in recog­ni­tion of his gal­lantry. By crown­ing Tariq Khan, Nawaz Sharif, de­sirous of edg­ing closer to the US, may opt for some­one re­spected by them as well as aug­ment the PML-N govern­ment’s re­solve to com­bat ter­ror­ism un­der a vet­eran of the war against mil­i­tancy. Tariq hails from Waziris­tan and may be an as­set even if ne­go­ti­a­tions were to take place with the mis­cre­ants.

One should also not com­pletely rule out num­ber five, Lieu­tenant Gen­eral Za­heerul Is­lam, cur­rently the Di­rec­tor Gen­eral of the In­ter-Ser­vices In­tel­li­gence.

There were two more op­tions avail­able; one to ex­tend Kayani’s term by an­other year till the 2014 draw­down of in­ter­na­tional forces of in­ter­na­tional troops from Afghanistan. The chances of this op­tion are re­mote as Mian Sahib would like to see the back of Gen­eral Kayani, who in 2012, was named by Forbes mag­a­zine as the 28th most pow­er­ful per­son in the world and Nawaz Sharif has vowed to keep the Army sub­servient to the civil­ian dis­pen­sa­tion.

The sec­ond al­ter­na­tive was to ex­tend the ser­vices of Lieu­tenant Gen­eral Khalid Nawaz and pro­mote him to re­place Kayani as COAS. Nawaz Sharif, who is re­tain­ing the port­fo­lios of De­fence and For­eign Min­istries, had di­rected his con­fi­dants, Shah­baz Sharif and In­te­rior Min­is­ter Chaudhry Nisar, to call on Khalid Nawaz furtively. It may be men­tioned that Khalid Nawaz, a rel­a­tive of Raja Za­farul Haq, may have been a con­sid­er­a­tion as he was due to re­tire in Oc­to­ber 2013 but Gen­eral Kayani ap­par­ently pre­empted the move by re­tir­ing him on su­per­an­nu­a­tion and re­placed him as Com­man­der X Corps with Lieu­tenant Gen­eral Qa­mar Javed Ba­jwa on Au­gust 13, 2013.

The best op­tions for Nawaz Sharif would be to ap­point Ha­roon As­lam as CJCSC, and Rashad Mah­mood as the next COAS. He would thus main­tain se­nior­ity, re­tain the ser­vices of the other out­stand­ing gen­eral of­fi­cers till they re­tire, who would not be forced to re­sign if su­per­seded by ju­nior of­fi­cers and also keep the Army morale in place and per­haps not rue later for “the road not taken!”

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Pakistan

© PressReader. All rights reserved.