Pakistan Army is at a juncture where it is being forced to act as a police force in a violent ridden domestic strife from separatist movements in Baluchistan, violence in Karachi, sectarian carnage countrywide to terrorism and bombings. A historical hostility with India and a porous border with Afghanistan are routine headaches. There are sizeable regions where writ of the government is scarce and lawlessness in abundance. Army there is stationed and acts as a government and judiciary. With collapsing political and state machinery Army is more than occasionally called for disaster relief during floods and earth quakes. Frequented trade and travelling routes in FATA, Baluchistan and North are being guarded by Army to make life of the locals possible, energy reservoirs and pipelines are guarded by the Army, recent stagnant flooding of the urban area of Karachi also saw Army Engineering Corps coming to rescue to fix the sewerage.
The 2014 Afghanistan pullout is not logically possible without an all-out support of Pakistan Army, The ailing superpower and guerilla forces gradually gaining ground understand this fact and both sides are vehemently prepared for it, not only for strategic reasons but for all other possible causes.
With domestic, regional and international repercussions linked with every blink of Pakistan Army it would be wrong to underestimate the essence and power of the following question. Who will be the next Pakistan Chief of Army Staff?
General Ashfaq Parvex Kayani after being the only COAS to oversee two democratic governments take charge and after his six year stint inclusive of three year extension is all set to retire on November 29, 2013.
Nawaz Sharif in the first couple of months of his third tenure as the Prime Minister has three four star decisions to make which includes COAS (de-facto top military commander), Naval Chief and CJCSC (actual military top slot). The decision he made in appointing a four star cost him his position, his government and a decade long contractual exile in the Arab land under the generous hospitality of the Saud family. Advice from people close to him reportedly his younger brother the current CM of Punjab and Chaudhry Nisar, the current Minister of Interior (brother of another three star general) in 1998 saw him superseding seniority and appoint General Parvez Musharraf to the Army top slot.
In 1993 Sharif chose General Kakar who was fourth in the list of seniority, in 1998 his selection was General Musharraf third in seniority. Both proved fatal to his chair.
Corps Commander 10 Corps and CJCSC
Lt General Khalid Nawaz Khan commander 10 Corps and Lt General Muhammad Alam Khattak commander of the southern command are out of the race by virtue of their retirement before General Kayani. Although General Pasha was promoted from Major General despite upcoming retirement and was appointed ISI chief a couple of years back by the then new Army Chief General Kayani.
10 Corps is the elite corps known for immaculately handling and executing military coups ousting civilian governments with stealth and ease on multiple occasions. The commanding officer of this corps is always a close confidant of COAS. General Khalid is a relative of Raja Zafar ul Haq a politician close to Nawaz Sharif. Currently Lt General Tariq Khan (present Corps Commander Mangla) and Lt General Khalid Rabbani (present Corps Commander Peshawar) are being considered for the position, the former also a candidate for the post of COAS.
CJCSC, General Khalid Shamim Wyne is also due to retire along with the vacant Rawalpindi Corps slot, which means one of the listed candidates will take these positions. Which will narrow down the choices and maybe make it easier for Sharif to make the decision. Alternatively it will not be an odity to see the Naval or PAF chief rising to take this CJCSC.
The contenders are:
Lt General Haroon Aslam
He is famous for leading the largest group of SSG assault in Peochar Mountains, during Swat military operation. It was one of the highest battle grounds and was inaccessible for an air raid or a conventional military assault proving a decisive factor in Pakistan Army’s massive success in this urban warfare operation. Most importantly Haroon Aslam then a two star general led the assault and heliborned himself to this mountainous abode of the militants.
He held the important post of GOC Quetta, GOC SSG and DG Rangers Punjab during Musharraf’s era. As a Lt General he has commanded the Bahawalpur Corps.
He as a Brigadier was DMO during the 1998 coup having an automatic active role in ousting the government of Nawaz Sharif.
He currently serves as CLS (Chief of Logistic Staff) a relatively unimportant post for a future COAS. He is due to retire on 9th April 2014.
Lieutenant General Rashad Mehmood
He was commanding the prestigious IV corps at Lahore. He was the military secretary of President Rafiq Tarar. By virtue of both these positions he is known to have good relations with the Sharifs, especially Shahbaz Sharif.
He has remained Deputy DG ISI and is current CGS (Chief of General Staff), both coveted positions and giving him an edge on both operational and intelligence experience.
He was ADC to the former COAS Aslam Beg, who has been held responsible for the Asghar Khan case.
He will retire in April 2014.
Lt General Raheel Sharif
He has a string of important appointments to his name. He was GOC 11 division at Lahore, Commandant PMA and then Commander Gujranwala Corps. He is currently IGT&E (Inspector General Training and Evaluation) a post similar in importance to that of General Aslam.
He is known to be close to General Abdul Qadir Baloch who in turn is a close confidant of Nawaz Sharif.
He is the brother of the highlighted of the Nishan e Haider recipients Shabbir Sharif Shaheed, a martyr a war hero of both 65 and 71 wars.
He will retire in October 2014.
Lt General Tariq Khan
He came to limelight as IG FC KPK. He held this position in the critical of times when terrorism had plagued the country, morale of troops especially FC was at the lowest. He was successful in leading this war on terror in one of the most difficult area of the country gaining an upper hand in a short time leading the 14th Division.
He has also commanded a division as a GOC at Multan and also served as a senior representative of Pakistan at CENTCOM (US Central Command). Currently he commands the strike corps at Mangla.
He holds a sword of honour from PMA 55th Long Course. He participated in the Gulf War of 1991.
For his reputation he has earned as a military commander and strategist, for successive quick and successful results, his knowledge and experience of dealing with militancy, from my perspective is the next COAS.
Although media pundits and analysts have for long ruled him out of the race. WikiLeaks rcords a statement of Kayani mentioning Tariq Khan as his most able General.