ISLAMABAD  -  Putting to rest all rumours about his re-appointment, Chief of the Army Staff (COAS) General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani has announced to call it a day on November 29, his scheduled retirement date.
"Institutions and traditions are stronger than individuals and must take precedence," said General Kayani in a statement on Sunday.
The remarkable announcement comes as a categorical rebuttal to some reports circulated by the local as well as foreign media that General Kayani was getting extension as COAS.
Some news items even went to the extent of suggesting that the general was to be appointed as Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee (CJCSC) after retirement. Yet some others said the government was creating a slot of chief of defence staff following United Kingdom's defence model and General Kayani was the sole choice to head the armed forces.
"For quite some time, my current responsibilities and likely future plans have been debated in the media with all sorts of rumours and speculations doing the rounds. The subject of being entrusted with new duties has also come up in several reports. I am grateful to the political leadership and the nation for reposing their trust in me and the Pakistan Army at this important juncture of our national history. However, I share the general opinion that institutions and traditions are stronger than individuals and must take precedence," Gen Kayani said, just a day before the retirement of CJCSC General Khalid Shameem Wynne, who reaches the age of superannuation today (Monday), after completing his three-year term.
General Kayani's retirement announcement also appears to give credence to the reports new CJCSC and COAS would be appointed on the basis of seniority. The Nation has reported more than once that Lieutenant General Haroon Aslam, and Lieutenant General Rashad Mehmood are the final probables for CJCSC and COAS slots. The two generals are respectively first and second in the military's seniority list. The federal government is expected to make public the appointment of new CJCSC any time soon while the announcement on new COAS would follow.
"As I complete my tenure, the will of the people has taken root and a constitutional order is in place. The armed forces of Pakistan fully support and want to strengthen this democratic order. The Pakistan Army has made its contribution towards this desired end with complete clarity of mind and a comprehensive understanding of the trajectory Pakistan needs to take. They have also proven, on countless occasions, through their priceless sacrifices that the defence and prosperity of Pakistan is their highest priority," General Kayani said in Sunday's statement.
Belonging to Baloch Regiment of Infantry, the military's foremost fighting arm, General Ashfaq Kayani is the only spymaster to have been elevated to the military chief slot. He became the COAS on November 28, 2007, after General (r) Pervez Musharraf stepped down. Kayani was the Vice Chief of Amy Staff at the time of promotion. Prior to that, he was the Director General Inter Services Intelligence (ISI).
In 2010, the Pakistan People's Party-Parliamentarians (PPP-P)-led federal government gave General Kayani a three-year extension before his retirement in November 2010. A petition against his extension as COAS remained pending in the Islamabad High Court (IHC) before the court dismissed it this January.
Known as a "quiet general" and "silent soldier" in military ranks, General Kayani grapples with serious security challenges coming from Eastern and Western borders and home-grown militancy. He has commanded two full-scale military operations as well as a series of targeted operations and crackdowns aimed at surgical cleansing in the militancy-infested north-western belt. Known for their noted successes, the operations Raah-e-Raast and Raah-e-Nijaat were launched in 2009 to purge Swat and Malakand Division and South Waziristan Agency (SWA) of the militants. Several targeted operations have taken place in Khyber, Kurram, Bajaur and Orakzai agencies during General Kayani's tenure.
Due to his reportedly inflexible stance against the Unite States demand to launch a full-scale offensive in North Waziristan Agency (NWA), which the west regards as a 'den' of the most wanted terrorists from Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan and Haqqani Network, General Kayani's terms with his American counterparts have had patches of turbulence over the past six years. On a principled stand, Pakistan had disrupted its intelligence ties and strategic cooperation with the US following the killing of its soldiers at a Salala post by Nato forces in Mohmand Agency on November 26, 2011.
"I have served this great nation and had the privilege of commanding the finest army of the world for six years to the best of my abilities and with the sincerest of my intentions. It is time for others to carry forward the mission of making Pakistan a truly democratic, prosperous and peaceful country that embodies the finest dreams our founding fathers had envisaged for us," the COAS said in his statement. "My tenure ends on 29th November 2013. On that day I will retire. May the Almighty Allah help and guide us all!"