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Gen Azhar Abbas emerging as dark horse for Pakistan Army Chief

There is a deadlock over the question of the all-important appointment of the new army chief in Pakistan.

Entrenched preferences on either side mean that the government must go back to the drawing board and adjust its view, especially if it cannot reconcile with the army on the institution’s choice, Dawn reported.

Sources say that though the eligible officers are all equally qualified, the fact that some are perceived as being in a certain camp has greatly complicated the matters.

Lt Gen Asim Munir, for instance, is perceived to be PML-N supremo Nawaz Sharif’s favourite, though one senior party member insists “he may have no love for the Sharifs”.

“There is an impression that one candidate is ‘his man’ or ‘their man’, and this has created an unnecessary controversy,” the source said.

The institution is perceived to be leaning towards Lt Gen Sahir Shamshad Mirza, Commander 10 Corps, and though said to be an excellent candidate with impressive credentials, he is perceived as being sympathetic to former Prime Minister Imran Khan.

The army, however, does not want anyone who is politically aligned, Dawn reported.

“Gen Sahir has served in all the dream positions an army officer can have, and may be an excellent choice, but the perception, again, is making it all very murky.”

As far as labels go, Lt Gen Nauman Mehmood is believed to be “too rigid”, and Lt Gen Mohammad Amir perceived as “partial to the PPP”, a perception that, sources said, may rule them out.

Gen Faiz Hamid, Commander Bahawalpur Corps, too, is no stranger to controversy, having been publicly called out by the PDM and firmly believed to be Khan’s favourite, a label the PTI chairman denied to Dawn a few weeks ago, but not without saying they had a good working relationship.

If this situation persists, and the two sides cannot reconcile on one man, there needs to be a third option before November 29.

“Gen Azhar Abbas is now emerging as the third option. Apparently talks very little, nobody on our side really knows him, but he is considered to be very professional and bright,” Dawn news quoted the sources as saying.

With no labels attached to him (yet), there is a growing sense that Gen Azhar, Chief of General Staff, will be picked simply because others will be eliminated.

“All of them can operationally run the army,” the sources said.

“The bigger job is getting the institution out of this quagmire.”

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