Even as new Army Chief, Gen Raheel Sharif settles down to his powerful job, recent military appointments in Pakistan indicate it is business as usual as far as senior level placements are concerned. Raheel presided over his first Corps Commanders conference on December 06, 2013, which apparently went through the routine of approving promotions of Brigadiers and Major Generals. Three Major Generals were promoted and nine superseded, leaving 2 full Generals, 26 Lieutenant Generals and over 150 Major Generals in place.
Among one of the first important changes has been the shifting of Lt. Gen Ishfaq Nadeem Ahmed from the post of Director General Military Operations (DGMO) as the new Chief of General Staff (CGS), a key staff slot which had fallen vacant after Rashad Mahmood missed the bus and was elevated as Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee (CJCSC). Ishfaq Nadeem is an Azad Kashmir regiment officer who earned Kayani’s confidence and was generally well regarded by peers. Maj Gen Aamer Riaz, a Piffers (Frontier Force regiment- new Chief’s arm too) officer is the new DGMO. He served as GOC, 11 Div Lahore earlier. While as Brigadier, he came into limelight deposing about the Hizb ut Tahrir plot in the court martial proceedings against Brig Ali, who wanted an Islamic take-over. Maj Gen Sarfraz Sattar, Armoured Corps, who was Defence Attache in India till recently has been appointed Director General, Military Intelligence.
Another interesting change is the easing out, finally, of Lt Gen (retd) Khalid Kidwai as Director General, Strategic Plans Directorate (SPD), which has been overseeing Pakistan’s Nuclear Command Authority (NCA) for years. Kidwai has been the key interlocutor for Pakistan Army’s interaction with Western nuclear safeguard officials and had a major role to play to reassure them about the post- AQ Khan nuclear safety mechanisms put in place. He has been replaced by Lt Gen. Zubair Mahmood Hayat, a serving Artillery officer who was Corps Commander at Bahawalpur (XXXI Corps) till recently.
Zubair was a Kayani protégé and had worked on his staff earlier. He belongs to a military family. His father was Maj Gen Aslam Hayat and two of his younger brothers are also Major Generals, which is perhaps a world record of sorts! Maj Gen Ahmad Mahmood Hayat is the best rated among the three brothers and was, till recently General Officer Commanding, 40 Infantry Div, Dera Ismail Khan. He was not attributed any lapse of responsibility for the daring July 13, 2013 Dera Ismail Khan Jailbreak in which 175 prisoners escaped. Instead, he has been moved to the prestigious Deputy Director General, Analysis slot in ISI. This post brings considerable international liaison exposure. The third brother, Maj Gen Omar Mahmood Hayat is from the Ordnance Corps and is currently serving in the Procurement Division, Weapons Directorate, Army Headquarters. These postings bear the Kayani stamp.
Lt. Gen Syed Tariq Nadeem Gilani continues as the Commander, Strategic Forces Command though in the Artillery and Army List pecking order, he is senior to Zubair Hayat. He would perhaps report directly to the Army Chief in the operational chain of command, with only a lateral link to SPD. This could also mean that Zubair Hayat will not have the same stature immediately as that of Khalid Kidwai.
Generals promoted to three stars rank are Lt. Gen Zahid Latif Mirza of Air Defence, Lt. Gen Ikram ul Haq, Azad Kashmir regiment who was Vice Chief of General Staff (VCGS) and Lt. Gen Obaidullah Khan Khattak, Artillery, who was General Officer Commander, 37 th Infantry Div, Kharian. They may fill the vacant slots of DG, Logistic Staff (earlier held by Lt Gen Haroon Aslam, who has resigned), DG, Inspectorate of Training & Evaluation or Corps Commander, XXXI Corps, Bahawalpur. Lt Gen Najibullah Khan, Engineers, is the new Quartermaster General but was moved to this post by Kayani. All the newly promoted Lieutenant Generals will retire in January, 2017.
Raheel Sharif’s next phase of consolidation would involve placing Corps Commanders of his own choice in key positions, especially at X Corps, Rawalpindi and 1 Corps, Mangla. He may not rock the boat just yet as Lt.Gen Qamar Bajwa has only just moved to Rawalpindi and Lt. Gen Tariq Khan, at Mangla belongs to Raheel’s peer group and ran him close for selection as Chief. He retires in October, 2014. It remains to be seen whether he is moved to a Principal Staff Officer’s slot in GHQ or is allowed to phase out from Mangla. The same could be said of the DG, ISI’s post. Raheel would like his own man in this job. Present DG, ISI, Lt. Gen Zaheer ul Islam was Kayani’s man. He too retires only in October, 2014.
Though Nawaz Sharif’s choice of Raheel Sharif as Army Chief ahead of his seniors, Haroon Aslam and Rashad Mahmood may have been intended to convey a message that as Prime Minister, he wanted to remain his own man while making crucial appointments, in the long run Raheel Sharif would inevitably grow into the Army Chief’s persona and start calling the shots regarding vital strategic decisions on India policy, Afghanistan, nuclear issues and relations with United States.