Changes in Pakistan army in the offing

Baqir Sajjad Syed in Islamabad/Dawn
Asia News Network

Islamabad (Dawn/ANN) - The Pakistan military hierarchy will see reshuffle in a phased manner and before the end of this year more than half of the formations will have new faces as their commanders.

The shuffling, described by a military officer as a routine process, will happen because of the impending retirement of six three-star generals and a number of others completing their tenures on command or staff positions.

Corps formations in Rawalpindi, Lahore, Multan and Gujranwala are due to get new commanders.

The commander for Karachi Corps has already been named (Lt-Gen Ejaz Chaudhry) following the incumbent Lt-Gen Zahirul Islam's appointment as the director-general of Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI).

Therefore, out of the nine corps formations, five will have new commanders.

Additionally, though already publicly announced, the premier spy agency would have a new leader in the shape of Gen Zahir in place of retiring Lt-Gen Ahmed Shuja Pasha.

The strategic planning division is also due for a change of guard.

With all these changes happening over the summer, it wouldn't be an overstatement to say that the country is set to have a new look in the top national security team.

One of the high-profile changes being expected is that of Chief of General Staff (CGS) Lt Gen Waheed Arshad, who may be posted out as a corps commander.

Gen Arshad, who has been in this position since Oct 2010, is being tipped as the next Multan corps commander.

Others say he could be given the Gujranwala command, which according to one insider, under the initial scheme of things, was to be taken up by Quartermaster General Lt Gen Sajjad Ghani.

Gen Arshad is in turn likely to be replaced by one of his deputies, Vice Chief of General Staff (VCGS) Lt Gen Nasir Janjua.

Gen Janjua was recently promoted as a three-star general and is awaiting posting, pending which he continues to serve as VCGS.

The Multan posting is to fall vacant with the retirement of Lt Gen Shafqaat Ahmed, the former military secretary to ex-president Gen Pervez Musharraf, in November. Therefore, the Multan posting would be the last in the reshuffle.

Rawalpindi Corps Commander Lt Gen Khalid Nawaz, who has previously headed the Quetta Staff College, is being considered for appointment as president of the National Defence University. The NDU post will fall vacant with retirement of Lt Gen Agha Mohammad Umer Farooq in July.

The Rawalpindi Corps is considered to be one of the most strategically important formations, primarily because its area of responsibility also includes Jammu and Kashmir.

Inspector General (training and evaluation) Lt Gen Muzamil Hussain is tipped to head the Rawalpindi Corps once Gen Nawaz moves out.

Gen Hussain has earlier served as Force Commander Northern Areas, which, though technically a division subordinate to the Rawalpindi Corps, is considered an independent corps-equivalent command.

Lahore Corps Commander Lt Gen Rashad Mahmood could be posted out as one of the principal staff officers at the General Headquarters. Likewise, Adjutant General Lt Gen Javed Iqbal is due for a command posting.

At strategic planning division, which is responsible for the management and administration of the country's tactical and strategic nuclear weapons stockpile, Lt Gen Khalid Kidwai is being rumoured to make way for the retiring spymaster Gen Pasha.

The generals retiring this year include: Inspector General Communications and IT Lt Gen Tanvir Tahir (March 15), ISI director-general Lt Gen Ahmed Shuja Pasha (March 18), deputy chairman of Earthquake Reconstruction and Rehabilitation Authority Lt Gen Sardar Mehmood Ali (April), NDU president Lt Gen Agha Mohammad Umer Farooq (July), Heavy Industries Taxila chairman Lt Gen Ayaz Saleem Rana (October) and Multan Corps Commander Lt Gen Shafqaat Mehmood (November).

Air Defence Commander Lt Gen Owais Ghani has already retired this month.