The process of the appointment of the next army chief being under consideration, all candidates appear to be evenly poised and there are no clear front-runners. Here are four senior most three-stars generals, who are being discussed for appointment as new army chief and Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff (CJCSC).
Lt Gen Zubair Hayat: Lt Gen Zubair Hayat is from the artillery and the serving CGS. As a three-star general, he was previously posted as director general of the Strategic Plans Division (SPD), which is the secretariat of the NCA; and corps commander Bahawalpur. This makes him an ideal choice for the post of CJCSC, who has an almost exclusive jurisdiction over nuclear forces and assets.
It is very rare for someone posted at the SPD to go back to the army. Therefore, many see in his return to the GHQ within a year and half of his transfer to the SPD an ambitious rise to a four-star position.
During his tenure as a major general, he was general officer commanding (GOC) Sialkot and later headed the Staff Duties (SD) Directorate, whose personnel are commonly known in the army as ‘paper tigers’. His stay at the directorate and his earlier posting as principal staff officer to the army chief brought him closer to Gen Kayani, and he is generally seen as Gen Kayani’s protégé.
Gen Zubair is a second generation officer. His father retired as a major general, while two of his brothers are generals: Pakistan Ordnance Factories Wah Chairman Lt Gen Omar Hayat and Inter-Services Intelligence DG (Analysis) Maj Gen Ahmad Mahmood Hayat.
Lt Gen Ishfaq Nadeem Ahmed: The other potential pick is Lt Gen Ishfaq Nadeem Ahmed, who is considered to have had a ‘textbook career’. He is currently serving as Multan corps commander and has previously served as CGS.
Gen Ishfaq’s appointment as CGS was one of the first few things Gen Raheel Sharif did when he took charge as army chief, and many see him as the man behind Gen Sharif’s successes.
Gen Sharif’s claim to fame has been his successful campaign in North Waziristan, which is known as Zarb-i-Azb. But it is little known that the blueprint for the operation had been prepared by Gen Ishfaq as director general of military operations (DMGO). PM Sharif had received a briefing at the GHQ on the plan for North Waziristan and approved it in principle in August 2013.
Lt Gen Javed Iqbal Ramday: Lt Gen Javed Iqbal Ramday is now leading the Bahawalpur corps and was previously president of the National Defence University in Islamabad.
He served as GOC Swat during the operation there. In 2011, he was injured by sniper fire on his helicopter by militants over the mountainous part of Swat. For the next four years he was at the NDU, first as commandant and chief instructor, and then as president. He hails from the infantry’s Sindh Regiment.
“Lt Gen Ramday is a very capable and intellectually sound officer,” one of his former bosses remarked.
Due to his family’s political background, he is being described by some political analysts as the PML-N’s preferred choice. Public talk about his family’s political affiliations could potentially spoil his prospects.
Lt Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa: Lt Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa is something of a dark horse in this race and someone who needs to be closely watched. Currently serving at the GHQ as Inspector General of Training and Evaluation — the position Gen Sharif held before becoming army chief — he has commanded the 10 Corps, the army’s largest, which is responsible for the area along the Line of Control (LoC).
Lt Gen Bajwa has extensive experience of handling affairs in Kashmir and the northern areas of the country. As a major general, he led the Force Command Northern Areas. He also served in the 10 Corps as lieutenant colonel, where he was GSO.
Despite his extensive involvement with Kashmir and northern areas, he is said to consider extremism a bigger threat for the country than India. He has previously also remained the commandant of the Infantry School in Quetta.
His military colleagues say he is not attention-seeking and remains well-connected with his troops.
When Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif finally looks into to choose Gen Raheel Sharif’s successor, his decision will be guided by personal choices, political considerations, and in a couple of cases his own experiences.