President Pervez Musharraf has reaffirmed intention to step down as army chief after eight years Who Replaces “General” Musharraf?

 ISLAMABAD — Now that President Pervez Musharraf has reaffirmed intention to step down as army chief after eight years, the identity of his replacement at the helm of the powerful nuclear-armed army is leaving every body guessing. “Loyalty will possibly be the key factor but General Musharraf may spring a surprise while making top military appointment in the coming few days or weeks,” Ansar Abbassi, a senior defense analyst, said.More...
Musharraf has reportedly pledged to doff his uniform by November 15 if re-elected as president-in-uniform for a third five-year term by the sitting assemblies.
He is currently engaged in consultation with his close aide to appoint his successor as army chief, which is largely considered the kingmaker post in the South Asian Muslim country.
“Seniority and competence are always important for the acceptability of the top commander in the senior ranks of the army but in the present situation loyalty to General Musharraf would be more important,” said Abbassi.
“General Musharraf will definitely want that the future army chief should be his most trusted man. He will also expect from the army to come to his aid when he needs it and that there should be an army chief on whom he can count,” he argued.
“Strong-headed Lt Generals have, therefore, little chance to dream for the key post.”
Musharraf, a key US ally in the so-called war on terror, seized power in a 1999 coup and has faced mass street protests since trying to sack the country’s chief judge.
He is seeking re-election by the outgoing parliament in a vote that is due before October 15.
Under an agreement with the six-party religious alliance Muttehida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA), he was to shed his military uniform by December 31, 2004.
Musharraf, a former commando, has since refused to honor the agreement and quit the military — which is the main source of his power and whose loyalty has kept Washington onside.
Musharraf is keeping his cards close to his chest and there is hardly anyone amongst the top military commanders having any idea as to who would be promoted as a four-star general and appointed as the new army chief, sources privy to President House told IOL.
The two incumbent four-star generals, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee General Ehsanul Haq and Vice Chief of Army Staff General Ahsan Saleem Hayat are retiring on October 8.
Prior to this deadline, Musharraf is expected to make top-level promotions against these anticipated vacancies anytime during this month, sources say.
Background interviews conducted by IOL suggest that amongst the 12 Lt Generals four are considered the strongest candidates for the influential post of army chief.
They are Lt General Ashfaq Kiyani, Director General of the country’s powerful Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI); Lt General Tariq Majeed, Corps Commander; Lt General Muhammad Sabir, Inspector General for Training and Evaluation ; and Lt General Salahuddin Satti, Chief of General Staff (CGS).
They are generally known in military circles as Musharraf’s most trusted top commanders.
Kiyani, second on the seniority list, is generally reputed as a competent, sharp and mature professional.
Army sources say that being a key strategic and planning aide to Musharraf, he has brighter chances to obtain the key slot to carry on with Pakistan’s close cooperation with Washington in its so-called war on terror.
Kiyani’s was recently involved in the dialogue with former premier Benazir Bhutto for a power-sharing deal.
However, in the history of Pakistan army no ISI chief has ever been promoted to the post of army chief.
Lt General Majeed, who led the Red Mosque operation in July, is another strong candidate for the key post of army chief.
His two major advantages are his family relations to Musharraf and sharing his ethnic background.
Tariq enjoys a good support in the US defense circles.
The controversial Red Mosque operation, in which hundreds of innocent women and children were killed, could be a disadvantage to him.
Sources privy to Musharraf claim that the new army chief would be either Kiyani or Majeed as the two are in the “good book” of America.
General Satti, though a competent professional and a respected officer, has the greatest disadvantage of being too low in the seniority list of Lt Generals.
He became the most trusted man of Musharraf when, as the Commander 111 Brigade, he took over Islamabad in the 1999 coup against the then elected government of Nawaz Sharif.
To promote Satti as a four-star general would mean to supersede at least 12 Lt Generals, an unlikely step that which has never been done in the history of army, army sources say.
Lt. General Sabir, who is number 4 on seniority list, is also whispered as a serious contender.
But army sources say he has never been actively engaged in the so-called war on terror.
Therefore, they contend, Sabir would be Musharraf’s last choice although he is one of his most trusted aides.
Abbassi, the senior defense analyst, believes the new army chief will have to change the general perception that Pakistan is fighting America’s war.
“The crucial challenge for the new army chief will be the US pressure, its war on terror and the ongoing operations in the tribal areas, Waziristan in particular,” he said.
“Only through his competence and professionalism, the chief would keep a balance between the US pressure and the local sensitivities involved. He will have to clear the general perception that our army is fighting America’s war.”

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