LAHORE - As chances of extension in service of General Raheel have become negligible, it’s not unwarranted to look for the possible candidates for the post of army chief.

The incumbent army chief, who through his professional excellence and dedication to service has won laurels at home and abroad, has announced that he would retire on the due date - November 29, 2016.

Information Minister Pervaiz Rasheed has recently said that there is no proposal on the table to give the COAS (Chief of Army Staff) extension in service.

Under the Constitution it is the prime minister’s prerogative to appoint new army chief. He may go by seniority or may also bring in a dark horse.

As per the practice, five senior-most lieutenant generals on date of retirement of the outgoing COAS are considered to be the main contenders.

Presently, Maqsood Ahmad, Zubair Mahmood Hayat, Syed Wajid Hussain, Najib Ullah Khan and Ishfaq Nadeem Ahmed are five-senior most lieutenant generals after Genral Raheel.

Traditionally, the outgoing COAS proposes one or two names from among the senior-most officers to the prime minister, who has the choice to either accept the recommended name or select some other senior officer for the coveted post.

All the above five senior-most officers are due to retire next year – four of them on January 13 and the fifth one (Lt-Gen Ishfaq) on August 8.

Choosing someone from among them has therefore an obvious drawback – the new chief army chief will be either transitory or he will be seeking extension in his service, a practice General Raheel wants to discourage through his own practice.

But selecting someone other than these senior officers too has disadvantages: One, ignoring seniority in itself is not a good thing. Two, the junior officers are not as much experienced as these men who have already served at key positions.

Lt-Gen Maqsood Ahmad is the senior-most officer after General Raheel. He is currently in the US serving as Military Adviser, Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO), at the United Nations.

Maqsood has commanded IV Corps Lahore, besides heading an infantry division in Murree which is a part of X Corps, Rawalpindi. He also served as deputy director general in Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI).

Lt-Gen Zubair Mahmood Hayat is second on the seniority list, excluding General Raheel. He is currently serving as Chief of General Staff (CGS) in GHQ. He has also headed XXXI Corps Bahawalpur, besides serving as director general of the Strategic Plans Division (SPD) and General Officer Commanding, Sialkot.

Lt-Gen Syed Wajid Hussain is third on seniority list and he is currently serving as chairman of Heavy Industries Taxila (HIT). Wajid hasn’t commanded any corps as yet.

Lt-Gen Najib Ullah Khan currently serving as DG Joint Staff, JS HQ, Chaklala is the forth on the seniority list. He has also served as General Officer Commanding of Kharian.

Lt-Gen Ishfaq Nadeem Ahmed, who is currently commanding II Corps Multan (II Strike Corps), is on the list. He has served as Chief of General Staff from November 2013 to April 2015.

Background interviews with security officials suggest that Zubair Mahmood and Ishfaq Nadeem are likely to be the strongest candidates for the COAS slot keeping in view their professional trek record.

Both have held the position of Chief of General Staff, which is considered second-most important position in the army after the COAS. Gen Zubair is currently serving as CJS and Gen Ishfaq had served on this position before posting to II Corps Multan.

The two generals have also been corps commanders. Gen Zubair has commanded XXXI Corps Bahawalpur and Gen Ishfaq is currently heading II Corps Multan.

Lt-Gen Maqsood who falls at number one in the seniority list has also commanded IV Corps Lahore, besides leading ISI as its Deputy Director General but the security officials consider Zubair and Ishfaq as the two leading candidates for the next COAS.