Zee Media Bureau
Islamabad: It seems that Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is in no hurry to announce the successor of Army chief General Ashfaq Kayani, who is scheduled to step down from his post next month.
Despite a clear message sent by the outgoing Army chief and another top military post now vacant, Nawaz Sharif on Monday said, "Will name chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee and Army chief together."
The current head of the JCSC, Gen Khalid Shameem Wynne, completed his tenure today while Army chief Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani announced yesterday he would step down at the end of his term on November 29. The premier was expected to name Wynne`s successor today.
Reportedly in the backdrop of rising tension with India over LoC infiltrations and on the Kashmir issue, the departure of General Ashfaq Kayani who is considered to be one of Pakistan`s most powerful men, Sharif will try to fill this post with his own confidant.
However, according to a statement issued by the PM House today, the premier said that his government would “keep the interests of the country supreme” while appointing the new Chief of Army Staff (COAS) and Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee (CJCSC).
As per reports, Kayani, is likely to stay head of the military with a new title when he steps down as army chief.
The expected move comes at a time when Islamist violence is on the rise in Pakistan and as Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif seeks to shore up a stable government just months into his job.
However, a statement from Sharif`s office today said that "expectations regarding announcement of successor to outgoing CJCSC before October 8 and retirement of army chief on November 29 are reasonably important issues which need comprehensive considerations". It did not elaborate.
The Prime Minister "has, therefore, decided to announce the names for both the appointments at the same time", the statement said.
Sharif said his government is fully cognisant of its constitutional obligations and every decision will be made keeping the country`s interests supreme.
His remarks came just hours ahead of Wynne`s retirement.
Last evening, the powerful army chief said he was not seeking an extension and would retire as scheduled on November 29. Kayani`s announcement came against the backdrop of reports that he could be made the chief of a revamped JCSC.
Kayani was appointed Army chief by former military ruler Pervez Musharraf in late 2007. He was given an unprecedented three-year extension by then premier Yousuf Raza Gilani in 2010.
The appointment of Army chiefs has never been easy for civilian governments in Pakistan.
Leading the race for the Army chief`s post on the basis of seniority is Lt Gen Haroon Aslam, currently Chief of Logistics Staff. Aslam will be the senior-most general when Kayani retires.
However, sources and aides close to Kayani said Sharif wanted to make him head of a revamped and more powerful Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee (JCSC). One senior intelligence official said Sharif planned to overhaul the JCSC, a largely ceremonial office, into a "central defence body" by restoring its command over the entire military establishment and giving it additional powers.