Both the government and Chief of Army Staff (COAS), General Raheel Sharif have rubbished rumours of a possible extension to his tenure as head of the army, which means that in less than three months, the government will have to announce the name of his successor. Sticking to the seniority list and the advice of the outgoing General Kayani seems to have worked in the case of Gen. Sharif’s appointment, which is why it is hoped the government can make another wise choice on Nawaz Sharif’s fifth personal selection for the top slot in the army.

The Prime Minister will have to put a lot of thought into who becomes the new head of the army, with preferences in counter-terrorism policy, foreign policy (in the case of India and Afghanistan especially) and the relationship with and reaction to the civilian government primary concerns that will make the PM take his time in mulling over the choices.

If the logical pattern is to be followed, Chief of General Staff Lt. General Zubair Hayat is on the top of the seniority list, and could take the slot of Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee (CJSC). Theoretically, the CJCSC is a senior of the army chief, which is why it cannot be a junior in the seniority ranking. But it can be from someone from the navy or the air force, which would make Lt. Gen. Hayat an option for COAS as well. The problem with his appointment though, is that he would retire in January the following year, which, not counting an extension, is too short a time period to make it count.

Following him is Lt. Gen. Ishfaq Ahmed, who is known to be the man without whom the successes in Zarb-e-Azb and the fight against militancy would not be possible. Another top contender, his ascension would prove useful in both the counter-terror operations and the draw-down of security forces in North Waziristan. Other names that are technically above Gen. Ishfaq, but will reportedly be ineligible (because they have not commanded a corps) are Gen. Syed Wajid Hussain and Gen. Najibullah Khan. The last two names in this six-man list are Gen. Javed Iqbal Ramday and Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa.

Whoever the choice is, the soon-to-be vacant office of COAS will have some big shoes that need filling, because the outgoing general has served his country well, not only by taking the war against extremism to the militants, but also by displaying exemplary self-control in ignoring all calls for him to accumulate more power than his office bestows. The next COAS should look at his immediate predecessor’s tenure as an example, and as long as they follow in his footsteps, the good work will continue.