Islamabad: With Pakistan`s powerful Army chief Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani`s term coming to an end in November, names of top Generals who are likely to succeed him are being discussed in the political circles and in the corridors of power here.
The appointment of the next army chief has gained wide attention in view of past difficulties faced by civilian governments in appointing persons to the coveted military post.
A number of names are in circulation and leading the race is Lt Gen Haroon Aslam, currently Chief of Logistics Staff. He will be the senior most General when Kayani steps down.
Lt Gen Aslam has served as Director Military Operations, commanded Elite Force Division (Special Services Group) and had been Corps Commander of Bahawalpur.
He also lead the successful anti-militancy operation in the Swat in 2009. He is due to retire on April 9 next year.
The other two in contention, based on seniority, will be Lt Gen Rashid Mehmood, Chief of General Staff and Lt Gen Raheel Sharif.
Following them is Lieutenant General Tariq Khan, Commander of 1 Strike Corps at Mangla and then ISI chief Lt Gen Zaheer-ul Islam at the fifth spot.
The appointment of a new Army chief comes at a time when the country is facing huge national security issues and is in the midst of the NATO troop withdrawal in Afghanistan.
The government is also in the initial stages of holding peace talks with the Pakistani Taliban and other militant groups.
Kayani, 61, was appointed the army chief by former military ruler Pervez Musharraf in 2007.
He was given an unprecedented three-year extension by then premier Yousuf Raza Gilani in 2010 and is set to retire on November 28.
Another post that will soon fall vacant is that of the Chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee (CJCSC).
"I think the seniority will be big criteria since Prime Minister himself has said so. But seniority does not mean other aspects would not be looked into. A lot of thought goes into the background of the officer, his postings, political inclination and whether he has led operations or commanded important Corps," Lt Gen (Retd) Talat Masood said.
Senior Pakistani journalist Talat Hussain said, "The rule of the thumb is seniority. Once the Prime Minister gets the names based on seniority, he can select anyone. Tenure differences of a few months don`t matter.
"If Lt Gen Aslam is appointed at the CJCSC, which falls vacant first, then Lt Gen Rashid might become COAS. If the CJCSC post goes to any of the other two services, then Lt Gen Aslam gets to be the Army Chief."