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Why is Pak army chief delaying appointments?

April 20, 2019 09:53 IST

'Given the past practice in the Pakistan army, this delay is most unusual,' notes Rana Banerji, who headed the Pakistan desk at the Research and Analysis Wing, India's external intelligence agency.

 Pakistan army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa at the Line of Control, February 22, 2019. Photograph: www.ispr.gov.pk

IMAGE: Pakistan army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa at the Line of Control, February 22, 2019. Photograph: www.ispr.gov.pk

While the promotions of Pakistan's most recently elevated lieutenant generals was announced on April 11, there has been an unseemly delay in announcing their assignments, which is causing unnecessary speculation and reflecting poorly on army chief, General Qamar Javed Bajwa.

Of the 4 two star generals promoted, Lieutenant General Azhar Abbas (Baloch regiment) has been slotted as director general, joint staff at the joint staff headquarters, which services the office of the chairman joint chiefs of staff, General Zubair Mohd Hayat, while Lieutenant General Nauman Ahmed (Baloch regiment) has been posted as inspector general, communications information technology (IG, C&IT) at the general headquarters.

The other two, Lieutenant General Sahir Shamshad Mirza (Sind regiment) and Lieutenant General Faiz Hamid (Baloch regiment) -- whose elevation was controversial given his involvement in resolving the Tehrik e Labaik agitation last year -- have yet to be given assignments.

Given the past practice in the Pakistan army, this delay is most unusual. General Bajwa had plenty of time to plan these postings and should normally have done so promptly.

After the promotion board meetings are over, posting of those promoted is very much the chief's prerogative. Other senior generals have no say in this.

 

If some senior officer is close in seniority to the chief, either belonging to the same course or a course or two junior, he could recommend his protégé for a particular post, but the chief has the final say.

In the instant situation, most lieutenant generals in General Bajwa's team are too junior to enjoy this sort of camaraderie. Even if that were the case, this would have been communicated to the chief a long time ago.

Till the other day, only the GoC 31 Corps, Bahawalpur and the adjutant general's posts were vacant. It was expected that the remaining two promoted generals would be accommodated against these posts.

However, General Bajwa has just shifted Lieutenant General Syed Mohd Adnan (Punjab regiment), the erstwhile vice chief of general staff at GHQ, as the new Bahawalpur corps commander. He also moved Lieutenant General Humayun Aziz (artillery regiment) as the new corps commander, 5 Corps, Karachi after Lieutenant General Shahid Baig Mirza's retirement. Both these changes have not been reported in the media so far.

Another switch over of armoured corps generals was effected some time ago, again quietly, moving Lieutenant General Naeem Ashraf as the new 2 corps commander, Multan with Lieutenant General Abdullah Dogar moving in his place, as chairman, heavy industries, Taxila.

These developments come against the backdrop of the first Pakistan Tehrik e Insaf cabinet re-shuffle undertaken by Prime Minister Imran Khan on April 18, where he sacked one of his stellar performers, Finance Minister Asad Umar, just after he returned from ongoing negotiations with the IMF.

Asad is the son of the late Lieutent General Omar who had worked in Pakistan intelligence under the Ayub Khan/Yahya Khan regimes.

Imran has had to bring in Brigadier Ijaz Shah (retd) as interior minister. Ijaz Shah was former director, intelligence bureau, under General Pervez Musharraf and had sheltered British terrorist Omar Sheikh for 7 days before his surrender to the Lahore police in connection with the Daniel Pearl kidnapping in January 2002.

Benazir Bhutto had accused Brigadier Shah in a plot to murder her, just before her assassination in December, 2007.

It is not yet clear to what extent the cabinet changes are indicative of Imran beginning to assert himself or whether he is still working as the army's protégé.

As Pakistan's economic situation continues to deteriorate, analysts in Pakistan are beginning to question how long the army's patience will last as its 'project PTI' runs into peril.

Rana Banerji
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