With political and economic challenges keeping the current coalition government of Pakistan busy, time is inching closer for the government to make what is likely to be one of the toughest calls of its tenure.
Appointment of the next Chief of Army Staff (COAS) will be one of the biggest challenges for the current government as it will have to choose between four candidates, recommended by the military establishment.
Sources within Pakistan Muslim League – Nawaz (PML-N) have already hinted towards closed door discussions on the appointment by the end of August and possibly a final decision by the mid of September, 2022.
According to Article 243 (3) of the Constitution of Pakistan, the president appoints the services of chiefs on the recommendation of the prime minister. Schedule V-A of the Rules of Business, which elaborates the cases to be presented to the prime minister for his approval states that “the appointment of, an above the rank of, lieutenant-general in the army and equivalent ranks in the other Defence Services will be made by the prime minister in consultation with the president”.
While the rules may maintain otherwise, the normal and common practice in Pakistan is different. As per tradition, the General Headquarters (GHQ) sends a list of the four to five senior-most lieutenant generals, along with their personal files, to the Ministry of Defence, which then forwards the same to the prime minister office to select one officer best suited for the role.
Even though the Ministry of Defence has the authority to vet the recommendations, it normally does not even attempt to raise any questions on the GHQ recommendations and forwards the same ahead to the PM office.
The appointment of the new Army Chief has no less than a nightmare for the PML-N government as Sharifs have never been able to get it right and have faced the consequences in the past through military takeovers.
Current Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Qamar Javed Bajwa is set to retire in the last week of November. Bajwa’s appointment was meant to be for three years. However, Bajwa was given an additional three years term extension in 2019 by the then sitting government of Imran Khan.
General Bajwa and the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) has rejected any rumour that he may get another extension, stating clearly that Bajwa would be retiring in November.
The names for the next Army chief happen to be from the same batch while the seniority of the lot is determined on technical basis.
The names are: Lt. General Asim Munir, Lt. General Sahir Shamshad Mirza, Lt. General Azhar Abbas, Lt. General Nauman Mehmood, Lt. General Faiz Hameed and Lt. General Mohammad Amir.