ISLAMABAD/LAHORE - With the guesswork abuzz, the government falls short of announcing the replacement of a top military general who has walked out of the ‘barracks’ upon the completion of his official term.
Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee (CJCSC) General Khalid Shameem Wynne had his last day at the office on Monday before he bade farewell to the coveted military slot after remaining the armed forces’ ceremonial head for constitutionally prescribed three-year period.
Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani would keep the additional charge of the CJCSC slot till a regular appointment. A day earlier (on Sunday), Kayani had announced to finally call it a day on November 29 this year, his scheduled retirement date, to put to rest the rumours of his re-appointment.
But in a surprising development, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Monday decided to linger further the appointment of new CJCSC. He said that announcement on CJCSC and COAS appointments would be made at the same time. “Expectations regarding announcement of successor to outgoing chairman before 8th October and retirement of army chief on 29th November are reasonably important issues but need comprehensive considerations,” the premier said in a statement.
Also on Monday, PM Nawaz and Punjab CM Shahbaz Sharif met at their Raiwand residence and discussed the issue of appointments of top military positions. According to reports, the two brothers agreed upon making the appointments on these important posts on the basis of ‘merit’. They said all stakeholders will be consulted and key party leaders will be taken into confidence on this matter.
Lt-Gen Haroon Aslam and Lt-Gen Rashid Mahmood are placed at number one and number two on the seniority list. But if the new army chief is picked from any of these two officers, their term will last only for four months and 10 days as the retirement date of both the officers is April 9, 2014. Lt-Gen Raheel Sharif is third on the seniority list. He is to retire on October 1, 2014.
Credible insiders at the GHQ dismiss the perception that government was not announcing General Wynne’s replacement considering that Haroon was far junior than Kayani and elevating him as CJCSC before Kayani’s retirement could bring ‘unease’ to the incumbent army chief because CJCSC slot has greater protocol.
Wynne, the sources recall, was quite junior than Kayani. In Oct 2010, when Wynne was promoted as a four-star general, Kayani’s first three-year term as COAS was nearing its completion. They said previous CJCSC Gen Tariq Majeed lagged far behind Gen (r) Pervez Musharraf in seniority when former was made CJCSC in Oct 2007 and the latter was COAS.
“In military, if your junior gets elevated to a higher rank, he’ll still call you ‘sir’ and you can call him by name. That’s a longstanding norm religiously followed in Pakistan Army out of professional courtesy,” the military officials commented. “‘Sir’ was the word Gen Wynne used to address Gen Kayani even when he would chair official meetings. It’s part of our protocol and respect given to seniors.”
Federal Minister Pervaiz Rashid was not willing to speak on the issue. “The PM has issued a statement... which does not leave me in a position to even speak... But I can say there’s no delay in naming the CJCSC... let’s wait for the right time and everything would come out clear,” he said, on contacted.
Also on Monday, Gen Wynne was given a farewell Guard of Honour at a GHQ ceremony, attended by the three services chiefs and senior armed forces officials. “Defence of the country is impregnable and gallant soldiers, sailors and airmen will not hesitate in making it even more formidable,” a military statement quoted him as addressing the gathering.