What makes Pakistan’s Army chief all powerful?

Musharraf is already clogging the promotion pipeline

For Gen Musharraf to remain in power even after he doffs his military uniform, he would find it necessary to clip the wings of the next Army chief. Ironically, it was Nawaz Sharif’s attempts to do just that that caused Musharraf to mount his coup. That leads to a big question – will the Army allow Musharraf to have his way?

What is the source of the army chief’s abnormal power? Firstly, he has the sole, unfettered authority to choose his lieutenant-generals. No promotion board sits for this purpose.

It’s his choice and in the normal course of things names put up by him for three-star promotions are automatically okayed by the defence ministry. Secondly, he has the sole authority to pick, choose, transfer and shift his divisional and corps commanders. No wonder everyone in the army looks up to him and what he says and wills is the law.

Any check on the army chief’s power to appoint and transfer senior commanders compromises the principle of unity of command, so essential for the health of a fighting force.

But if the authority of the defence ministry in the matter of two-star and three-star promotions is restored, as it should be, that is a check that not only a new army chief should be able to live with but it is also something good for the army and the country in the long term. [Ayaz Amir/Dawn Archive]

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