With the scheduled retirement of current Pakistan Army chief Gen Raheel Sharif next month, speculations are rife as to who would succeed him. There are reportedly four contenders for the job, but two of them are the favorite candidates of Raheel and the Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif respectively.
Nawaz Sharif had handpicked General Pervez Musharraf in 1999. But Musharraf had overthrown Nawaz in a bloodless coup. At a time when tensions between India and Pakistan has intensified, Sharif is more conscious than ever. Nawaz doesn’t want to lose his stranglehold on the PM’s post and tensions with India is usually ripe for politicians in Pakistan.
According to an India Today TV report, Sharif wants to install his man, corps commander of XXXI Corps Lt-Gen Javed Iqbal Ramday.
Family of Gen Ramday has been closely associated with Sharif’s party (PMLN) for several years, India Today reported quoting intelligence sources. Ramday’s rise in Pakistan military started after he successfully led the Army’s attack in Swat valley along the Afghanistan border in 2009.
By appointing his man as the Army chief, Sharif would get total control over Pakistan’s defense and international affairs. However, what happens if Ramday turns out to be another Musharraf?
In contrast, Gen Raheel’s preference for the top military post is Lt-Gen Zubair Mahmood Hayat, India Today reports quoting high-level Indian intelligence reports. Currently the chief of general staff at Army headquarters in Rawalpindi, Hayat belongs to a military family. His three brothers are in the army as generals. Previously, Hayat was the chief of strategic plans division of Pakistan, which controls the country’s tactical/nuclear assets.
The India Today report says that Hayat is believed to be more hardliner than Raheel.
Meanwhile, a demand is reportedly rising across Pakistan for the extension of Raheel’s tenure. He is considered to be the most popular Pakistan Army chief ever. Despite opposition of the government, Raheel had launched operation Zarb-e-Azb against Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan militants in North West Frontier Province.
Another “compromise candidates” in the race are Lt-Gen Ishfaq Nadeem Ahmad and Lt-Gen Qamar Bajwa. Pakistan’s last two army chiefs — Gen Musharraf and Gen Kiyani — had received extensions at the ends of their tenure.