Pakistani Army Gen. Khalid Shameem Wynne (left) retired Oct. 7 from his position as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee, and Chief of Army Staff Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani said he will retire Nov. 29. (Agence France-Presse)
ISLAMABAD — The retirement of two of Pakistan’s top military leaders is fueling speculation about their successors as well as the possibility of a reorganization at the upper echelons of the military.
Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, the chief of Army Staff (COAS), announced on Oct. 6 that he would retire on Nov. 29. Gen. Khalid Shameem Wynne, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee (C-JCSC), retired Oct. 7.
The retirements have prompted some observers to call for strengthening the C-JCSC position, in part by formally rotating it among army, navy and air force officers. Eleven of the 14 chairmen have been from the army since the post was established in 1976, and since 1997 only army officers have held the position. While the C-JCSC is nominally the country’s highest-ranking military leader, the COAS is considered by many to wield more influence.
Brian Cloughley, a former Australian defense attaché to Islamabad, said the “creation of a Chief of Defense Force with an appropriate tri-service headquarters ... is the most efficient, and cost-effective, manner in which to direct the armed forces of any nation.”
“The navy and air force are strongly against such a move, because they feel, probably rightly, that they would not have the same amount of representation in the tri-service HQ that the army would be allocated, simply because of numbers,” he added. “But this works in other countries, and there is no reason why it would not work in Pakistan.”
Analyst and former air force pilot Kaiser Tufail also favors a more powerful Chief of Defense Staff or C-JCSC, providing “the top post be rotated amongst the three services, and that the senior promotions [two-star and above] be left to the individual service chiefs, without interference from the C-JCSC or CDS.”
The position also “should be the central office for formulation of joint operational plans of the three services as the need for ‘jointness’ cannot be overemphasized in modern warfare,” he said.
He argues this would allow for the centralization of “common-use resources of the three services,” such as military hospitals and expensive training facilities like para jump and primary flying training schools.
The navy and air force war colleges could be amalgamated at the National Defence University, he said, noting that in “almost all NATO countries, there is a single war college and the individual services only run lower level staff courses dealing with basic service issues.”
Tufail said these examples “highlight the need for a higher oversight office of the [C-JCSC] or CDS.”
A powerful C-JCSC would also dilute the powers of the COAS, who is currently “all too powerful and is virtually the man in command of all military matters, overriding even the minister of defence,” he said.
“The chairman CJSC or CDS ought to be adviser to the prime minister on all defense matters, and not the army chief.”
Changes would “take years of fine tuning,” but Tufail said the process must start now.
Before he announced his retirement, there was speculation that Kayani would be named as the new C-JCSC, might be extended as COAS, or could become a national security adviser or even ambassador to the US.
The new COAS and C-JCSC will be announced in the coming weeks, but analysts and the media have speculated on candidates.
Lt. Gen. Rashad Mehmood, currently chief of General Staff (CGS), is the operational secretary of the COAS. Eight of the past 13 COAS have formerly held this position. He oversees Military Intelligence and Military Operations. He has served in the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) as a two-star general, as Lahore Corps commander, and was military secretary to a former president, which made him known to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.
Lt. Gen. Tariq Khan, currently commander of One Corps/Strike Corps, Mangla, fought against the Taliban as general officer commanding 14 Division in South Waziristan. He was inspector general of Frontier Constabulary in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province until 2010, is a local and more readily understands the culture and ways of the Taliban.
Khan is the recipient of the US Legion of Merit,and has a good working relationship with the Pentagon.
Lt Gen. Raheel Sharif, currently inspector general Training and Evaluation, was previously corps commander in Gujranwala, and commandant of the Pakistan Military Academy, Kakul.
Lt Gen. Haroon Aslam, currently chief of Logistics Staff, is senior-most after Kayani. He has been director general of Military Operations, commanded the Special Services Group, and was corps commander in Bahawalpur. He distinguished himself during operations to clear the Taliban from Swat in 2009.
However, though technically next in line, Aslam, like Sharif, is in a position traditionally occupied before retirement, not promotion.
Nevertheless, Aslam, Khan and Sharif have also been mentioned as the next C- JCSC.
Ignoring seniority could even see Lt. Gen. Muhammad Zaheerul Islam, director general of the ISI, and Lt. Gen. Salim Nawaz, Commander XXX Corps, Gujranwala, considered as C-JCSC.
Should the C-CJSC position be revamped, the head of the navy, Chief of Naval Staff Adm. Asif Sandila, is believed to be destined for the post.
However, Salma Malik, assistant professor in the Department of Defence and Strategic Studies at Islamabad’s Quaid-e-Azam University, believes the positions “will certainly be filled by those who are considered close, safe, harmless and yet confidantes of the [prime minister].”
She said despite thinking democracy was established and the military determined to stay out of government, the prime minister (himself a former “military prodigy”) will “remain cautious to the point of paranoia” of another coup.
Therefore, she said, it is likely Sharif will not revamp the C-CJSC position, but keep it “toothless.”
Partly for this reason, Cloughley said it “likely that Aslam will be chairman and Mahmud COAS,” due to the prime minister not wanting to “rock the boat,” though Khan may be “the man the army and the country need at the moment,” due to his experience.