By Abdullah Khan
Pakistani Army Chief General Ashfaq Pervez Kayani on Friday, September 20, 2013 has effectively put a full stop on hopes of at least five major generals of Pakistan Army to be promoted to the rank of lieutenant general. He promoted two major generals to the next rank on Friday. Maj. General Sahibzada Isfandiyar Ali Khan Pataudi was superseded by promotion of major general Khalid Asghar ahead of him while four major generals were ignored while promoting major general Mazhar Jamil who is currently working as Vice Chief of General Staff. Those who were superseded include Maj Gen Shaukat Iqbal, Maj Gen Muhammad Saad Khattak, Maj Gen Sajjad Ali Khan, and Maj Gen Khalid Mahmood.
General notion was that Gen Kayani will leave the task of promotion for his successor to choose his team of lieutenants but he deemed it ‘fit’ to ‘help’ the upcoming Army chief to include officers of his choice in the team. Maj Gen Isfandiyar Pataudi was the senior most in seniority list. He is currently serving in ISI as DG analysis. He was thought to be an automatic choice for promotion due to his good service record and seniority. He was awarded sword of honor in 63rd PMA course but Gen Kayani thought otherwise and promoted Maj General Khalid Asghar who was second in seniority list. Maj Gen Khalid Asghar, a civil engineer is currently working Inspector General Communications and IT at GHQ. The other two-star officer who was honored a three-star rank was Mazhar Jamil. To promote Maj Gen Mahar Jamil, Pak Army Chief had to jump over four other generals. It is worth mentioning that Mazhar Jamil was Commandant Pakistan Military Academy when U.S. Navy SEALs attacked a compound near PMA to kill Osama Bin Laden.
In the past it was a dominant culture among Army generals that superseded officers resign from duty and leave the institution. However, in recent years this culture has weaken and many superseded officers have chosen to continue their service. Currently, at least 25 superseded major generals are serving in the Army. One of the reasons that senior Army officers do not abide by the old culture can be attributed to widespread supersession culture started by General Pervez Musharraf and promoted by General Kayani in their respective tenures. In October 2004, General Musharraf overlooked 37 major generals to promote seven officers of his choice.
Ignoring seniority list does not amount violation of any rules as the list merely makes the officers eligible for promotion to the next level. Past performance and leadership potentials play major roles in promotion. Especially, the tenure of divisional command plays crucial role. However, any Army chief being a human has his own likes and dislikes too.
Who will be appointed next Army Chief is talk of the town these days. Vice Chief of General Staff Lt. General Rashid Mehmood is considered a favorite of the current Chief. He is second in the seniority list while Lt. General Haroon Aslam will be first choice if Pakistani Prime Minister honors the seniority list. Lt. General Raheel Sharif who also happens to be brother of Major Shabbir Sharif Shaheed (A martyr of 1971 war against India) is third in the list. Corps Commander Mangla Lt. General Tariq is fourth in the line while current Director General ISI is at 5th place in the seniority list. The history shows that while appointing Army Chiefs, seniority seldom played its role. PM Nawaz Sharif had promised to respect seniority list but it is not sure if he will honor his commitment or use infamous phrase of ex-president Asif Zardari that “Waday koee Hadees thoray he hotay hain” (Promises are not like the sayings of the Holy Prophet that one is bound to act upon).
The writer is a security expert and director at The Conflict Monitoring Center. He tweets here @AbdullahKhan333