Islamabad: The countdown has begun in Pakistan to appoint the next Army Chief with Gen Raheel Sharif set to step down on November 29. The ball is now in Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif`s court to choose his successor among the top four generals.
If sources are to be believed Prime Minister Sharif has already made up his mind over who will succeed Gen Sharif, but has so far kept his cards close to his chest.
The word in political circles is that Lt. Gen Ishfaq Nadeem Ahmed, who is currently serving as Multan corps commander, will be named the next army chief.
Lt Gen Zubair Mehmood is likely to be appointed chairman of the joint chiefs of staff committee, according to reports.
Others in contention for the top military post include Bahawalpur Corps Commander Lt Gen Javed Iqbal Ramday and Inspector General Training and Evaluation Lt Gen Qamar Bajwa.
All four generals are from the Pakistan Military Academy`s 62nd Long Course, but have had different career trajectories.
Defence Minister Khawaja Asif has said that completion of ongoing counter-terrorism operations would be the responsibility of the new army chief.
The war against terrorism, the situation along the border with India, and alleged "Indian aggression in Pakistan through Afghanistan" will be among the major responsibilities the new army chief will have to focus on, Asif said.
Nawaz Sharif`s choice will be important in the context that the new army chief would have to oversee the transition of the army from counter-terrorism assignments to its conventional role of defending the borders.
The formal process for nomination starts with the General Headquarters in Rawalpindi sending a list of the senior-most generals to the Prime Minister via the defence ministry, but without making any formal recommendations.
The Prime Minister then will hold informal consultations with the outgoing Army Chief before announcing his decision.
Gen Sharif initiated his farewell meetings at the Lahore Garrison on Monday, where he told a gathering of officers and men from the army and Rangers that he was leaving the country "more secure and stable", with a "sense of greater hope and direction" and ready to thwart all challenges.