On January 11, Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR) announced promotions of four two-star generals to lieutenants general —Maj Gen Maqsood Ahmad, Maj Gen Zubair Mahmood Hayat, Maj Gen Syed Wajid Hussain and Maj Gen Najibullah Khan.
As in other large armies which become large bureaucracies only a small number of officers get promoted to the next higher rank. The pyramid keeps getting steeper as one ascends to higher ranks.
Usually, there is a set pattern for selection of senior brass and the eligible candidates are expected to have completed somewhat similar stints at command, staff and instructional appointments.
The selection is done quite professionally and endorsed at the annual forum of Corps Commanders’ meetings. Of course, the army chief has a crucial say in these promotions. His likes, dislikes are important.
Opportunities in the past for Officers to have worked closely under the chief in previous assignments or loyalties developed over long past associations do matter in such selections. Seniority is not always the guiding yardstick.
Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, present Army Chief has been more careful than most to keep his personal likes and dislikes carefully sheathed. He has given due weightage to the balance between different arms so that no strong accusations of bias can be levelled against him by the coterie of senior generals even as his own term as chief enters the concluding phase.
Maj Gen Maqsood Ahmed is an Infantry officer from the Frontier Forces Regiment (Piffers). He is currently serving as Deputy Director General in ISI. He commanded 12 Div, Murree, one of the largest and most important formations of the Pakistan Army.
Usually, holding the post of GOC,12 Div is a clear path to promotion. All five previous GOCs have become lieutenant generals. Maqsood has been preferred to two other Infantry officers notionally senior to him — Maj Gen Raza Muhhammad (also in ISI) and Maj Gen Khawar Hanif (currently, DG, Evaluation at the Directorate of Training & Evaluation).
The former may not have got the nod due to a judicial commission of enquiry pending on the Lal Masjid case, when Raza was serving in Military Intelligence.
Maj Gen Zubair Mohd Hayat is an Artillery officer currently commanding 17 Div, Kharian. Belonging to a family of gunners (his father was Maj Gen Alam Hayat and two of his brothers are also majors general), he may have benefitted from working closely with Gen Kayani as Director, General Staff Duties at the COAS’ Secretariat. At present only two other gunners are lieutenants general.
Maj Gen Syed Wajid Hussain is from the Armoured Corps. Presently he has been working as Vice Chief of General Staff, usually an important grooming slot for higher responsibilities. He has been promoted to balance out the vacancy which will be created with the retirement of another Armoured Corpd officer, Lt Gen Waheed Arshad, presently Chief of General Staff.
The fourth major general promoted is Maj Gen Najibullah Khan, whose last assignment was Director General, Frontier Works Organisation. He will now be the third Lieutenant General from Engineers, the other two being Lt Gen Sajjad Ghani, QMG and Lt Gen Ahsan Mahmud, Chairman, POF, Wah. Though these are positions of secondary importance, his elevation may rankle.
After these promotions, there will be a limited re-shuffle of lieutenant generals/ corps commanders. These may have an impact and provide pointers to the chief’s own preferences for succession, though political developments — choice of new prime minister and re-election of President also due before Kayani’s term ends in November 2013 may prevent this from being a purely military professional choice.
(The author is a former special secretary, Cabinet secretariat)