LAHORE - Who will be the new Army Chief and the Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee after the retirement of Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, who is holding both the offices and is due to retire on Thursday (tomorrow).

Answer to this question is known only to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who alone has the constitutional authority to make appointments against both the posts.

The new COAS and CJCSC will take over on Friday forenoon at a ceremony to be held at the General Headquarters.

The prime minister is hosting a farewell dinner for outgoing COAS Gen Kayani on Wednesday.  Senior generals who are eligible to be appointed on the top slot and corps commanders have been extended invitations.

A former ISPR chief Maj Gen Athar Abbas said in an interview to a TV channel that the new COAS should have been appointed a couple of months ago.  The prime minister’s failure to do so indicates his indecision, he said.

He said it would be wrong to assume that the new COAS would become effective immediately after being appointed.

As things stand, in the absence of any announcement so far by the prime minister, people are making speculations.

There would have been no room for any guess work if it was absolutely clear that seniority would be the only consideration. But since the Constitution gives the prime minister discretion to go by seniority or any other yardstick in his mind, the possibility of even a junior general being appointed as the new  COAS cannot be ruled out.

In an interview in the past, he had said that he has learnt from his past mistakes and would now appoint the most senior general as the Army chief.  This was a clear reference to the appointment of Gen Pervez Musharraf who was bestowed upon this responsibility in violation of the seniority principle.

But the prime minister’s decision to keep the new COAS and CJSC decision a well-guarded secret even so close to the retirement of Gen Kayani gives people an impression that factors other than seniority could also be given weightage.

If the seniority is the sole consideration then either Lt Gen Haroon Aslam or Gen Rashad Mehmood will be the CJCSC.  If one office goes to one general, the other will go the other.

The appointment of the pair will mean a cordial working relationship between the army and the government.

According to some people, Generals Raheel Sharif, Tariq Khan and ISI DG Zaheerul Islam are also under consideration.

Raheel Sharif, Inspector General Training and Evaluation, is said to be having family relations with the Sharifs. However, for various reasons he is not the top choice.

Lt Gen Tariq Khan, Corps Commander, Mangla, is known as an assertive general, a trait which though professionally admirable, may not be liked by the prime minister who wants only ‘yes men’ around him.

DG ISI Lt Gen Zaheerul Islam is regarded as the second self of Gen Kayani and his elevation to the top post will mean no change in the situation.