As Pak army chief’s tenure nears end, Sharif faces key choice
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif faces a key choice in the coming weeks about who should run Pakistan’s powerful military – one that will have a major influence on the country’s strained relationships with the US and nuclear rival India.
With Chief of Army Staff General Raheel Sharif saying he will step down when his tenure ends in November, the top post is up for grabs, and the PM decides who gets it.
Overshadowing the process has been speculation in the media and by some government officials that the general may seek to hold on to some or all of his powers even after his term gets over.
The general is immensely popular among Pakistanis, who see him as a bulwark against crime, corruption and Islamist militant violence.
Yet the military flatly rejects the possibility of an extension. “I will request you to avoid speculations, because we have already taken a position very clearly,” Lieutenant General Asim Bajwa, the army’s main spokesman, said. What happens at the top of Pakistan’s armed forces will be closely watched overseas, especially by the US, India and Afghanistan.
According to close aides to the PM, the military high command has sent the prime minister the dossiers of four main contenders. The premier’s favourite, the aides said, was Lt Gen Javed Iqbal Ramday, commander of XXXI Corps who led a 2009 operation to drive the Pakistani Taliban movement from Swat Valley near the Afghan border.
The three other dossiers are for Lt Gen Zubair Hayat, Chief of General Staff, Lt General Ishfaq Nadeem Ahmad, commanding officer in the eastern city of Multan, and Lt Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa, who heads the army’s Training and Evaluation Wing.