With Pakistan army chief General Raheel Sharif, who is set to retire in November, there are several interesting developments that are taking place. While analysts in Pakistan do not rule out an extension, a proposal to elevate General Sharif to the rank of Field Marshal has been filed in the Islamabad High Court.
General Sharif the 16th Chief of Army Staff of the Pakistan army, was appointed on November 29, 2013 for a three year term. The General had said in January that he does not believe in extensions.
Although General Sharif is tight lipped today, some time back there were posters in Pakistan which called for an extension or for him to take over President.
Will he bow out?
General Sharif will step down in November or not is being watched with keen interest both in Pakistan as well as in India. Indian officials and analysts say that if he is given an extension that would mean Pakistan is attempting a military adventure.
However, analysts are also of the opinion that since he shares a troubled relationship with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, the likelihood of an extension is less.
However, analysts do not rule out a change in guard at the ISI. The current ISI director, Lt General Rizwan Akthar was in the news recently for his alleged showdown with the civilian government.
There is a rumour that he may be replaced with Lt General Naveed Akthar.
This would be a well calculated move by the civilian government. The government has been denying the report which spoke about a showdown. If a change of guard at the ISI were to take place, the government would be indirectly confirming the report.
The Pakistan government would want a peaceful transition in November. The government would ideally like to bring in Lt Gen Javed Iqbal Ramday in place of General Sharif. The name of Lt. Gen Ramday has been doing the rounds due to his proximity to the ruling PML(N). The question is will his political links have a bearing in the decision making?
However, analysts predict if at all General Sharif steps down, there is a good chance that he may be replaced with Lt Gen Zubair Hayat, the Chief of General Staff.
Hailing from Lahore, he is responsible for managing Pakistan's nuclear arsenal. He has served as the director general of the Strategic Plans Division. He is currently in charge of the intelligence and operational affairs at the army's General Headquarters. Hayat could be a compromise candidate since he is favoured both by the military and civilian leadership.
Field Marshal General Raheel Sharif?
The other interesting development is the petition in the Islamabad High Court which seeks to elevate General Sharif to the rank of a Field Marshal. Sarvar Saleem petitioned the court stating that General Sharif should be elevated as Field Marshal for his exemplary services and sacrifices rendered for the nation.
The petition further states that he should be promoted to the rank of Field Marshal for rendering services to protect national security and safeguarding the frontiers of Pakistan in accordance with the National Action Plan and for successful completion of the anti-terror campaign "Zarb-e-Azab" in an effective and efficient manner.
If General Sharif is elevated he would become the second Field Marshal of Pakistan. Field Marshal Muhammad Ayush Khan has remained the only Field Marshal in the history of Pakistan till date.
He had appointed himself as the Field Marshal when he was the second president of Pakistan as well as the commander in Chief of the Army.