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Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Qamar Javed Bajwa visited Sialkot and Mangla garrisons “as part of his farewell visits to various formations,” the military’s media wing said on Thursday.

As per the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR), COAS Bajwa met officers and men at both locations and addressed the troops.

COAS says will retire next month

“COAS appreciated formations for their excellent performance during various operations, training, and natural calamities,” according to the ISPR press release.

During the visit, the COAS advised troops to keep serving the nation with the “same zeal and commitment no matter what the circumstances.”

Earlier, on his arrival in Sialkot, COAS was received by Lieutenant General Muhammad Aamer and by Lieutenant General Ayman Bilal Safdar at Mangla garrison.

Last month, COAS Bajwa reportedly stated that he would retire on the due date - November 29 - putting an end to speculations that he may seek another extension.

COAS asks cadets to respect democratic institutions

This statement was made while he addressed a security workshop.

The COAS also reportedly stated that from now onwards Pakistan’s military will not play any role in the country’s politics and the military has decided to remain “apolitical”.

Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee (CJCSC) General Nadeem Raza is also due to retire on November 27.

Background discussions with the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) revealed that an intense consultation process was underway to select one of the six top-ranking generals as the next chief of army staff.

Those on the list are Lt Gen Asim Munir, currently serving in GHQ as Quartermaster General; Lt Gen Sahir Shamshad Mirza, Corps Commander Rawalpindi X; Lt Gen Azhar Abbas, Chief of General Staff (CGS); Lt Gen Nauman Mehmood, President National Defence University (NDU); Lt Gen Faiz Hamid, Corps Commander Bahawalpur; and Lt Gen Mohammad Amir, Corps Commander XXX in Gujranwala.

Informed sources in the government told Business Recorder that Lt Gen Asim Munir and Lt Gen Sahir Shamshad Mirza are the most likely candidates for the two top slots.

General Bajwa is set to retire on November 29 after six years in office. He was appointed in 2016 by then-Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and later granted an additional three-year extension in 2019 by then-Prime Minister Imran Khan.

The three-year extension was given after the intervention of the Supreme Court following months of controversy. The apex court had also asked the government to enact legislation in parliament for the re-appointment of the service chief.

The parliament after consensus among the then opposition parties including PML-N, PPP, JUI-F, and others allowed the then prime minister Imran Khan to extend the tenure of the service chief at his discretion and fixed 64 as the age at which a service chief must retire.

Traditionally, the General Headquarters (GHQ) sends a list of the senior-most lieutenant generals, along with their portfolios to the Ministry of Defence, which then forwards them to the prime minister to appoint as the Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee (CJCSC) and another as the Chief of Army Staff (COAS).

However, the final decision is at the sole discretion of the prime minister. Former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif appointed three army chiefs since 1972. At present Shehbaz Sharif as the prime minister is mandated to appoint the next army chief; however, PTI chairman Imran Khan has stepped up pressure to announce an early general election and defer the appointment of the next army chief to whoever wins the elections.

Lt Gen Asim Munir is the senior most among all the aspirants who was promoted to the rank of the two-star general in September 2018. His tenure as Lieutenant General will end on November 27.

Lt Gen Munir, regarded as a close aide of COAS Bajwa has commanded troops in the Force Command Northern Areas.

He was later appointed DG of Military Intelligence in early 2017 and in October next year was made the ISI chief. However, his tenure as the DG ISI turned out to be the shortest ever, as he was replaced by Lt Gen Faiz Hamid within eight months, on the insistence of the then Prime Minister Imran Khan.

He was posted as Gujranwala Corps commander XXX, a position he held for two years, before being moved to the GHQ as Quartermaster General.

Lt Gen Sahir Shamshad Mirza is another candidate on top of the list. He has had an impressive career in the army, particularly in senior leadership positions during the past seven years.

Lt Gen Mirza also served as director-general of military operations (DGMO) under then COAS Gen Raheel Sharif and also played a key role in supervising the military operation against the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and other militants in North Waziristan. He was also closely involved in the Afghan peace process.

He was appointed chief of general staff, effectively making him the second-most powerful person in the army after the COAS.

In October 2021, he was posted as Corps Commander Rawalpindi to enable him to acquire operational experience.

Lt Gen Abbas is also a strong candidate for the top military positions. He is the most experienced in Indian affairs among the current military leadership. Currently, he is the chief of general staff (CGS), effectively running the army with direct oversight of both operations and intelligence directorates at GHQ.

Lt Gen Nauman Mehmood is currently president of NDU and also has extensive experience as chief instructor at the Command and Staff College, Quetta. He has commanded an infantry division based in North Waziristan. From there, he was posted as director-general (Analysis) at the ISI, playing a crucial role in foreign policy analysis from a national security perspective.

Lt Gen Faiz Hamid is one of the most discussed candidates for the top position and is reportedly close to former Prime Minister Imran Khan. As a brigadier, Lt Gen Hamid served as chief of staff of the X Corps under Gen Bajwa, who was then commanding the corps.

Soon after the promotion of Gen Bajwa as army chief, he was posted as director-general (Counter-Intelligence) at ISI, where he was not only responsible for internal security but also political affairs.

After his promotion to the three-star rank, Faiz was initially appointed adjutant-general at the GHQ in April 2019 and later appointed as DG ISI in June 2019. He also served as corps commander, Peshawar, and presently is corps commander, Bahawalpur.

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