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Pakistan Army makes up the sixth largest army in the world due to its active military personnel. According to Global Fire Power, they are the 17th strongest armies in the world for 2018, with some appreciable achievements bagged against insurgency and terrorism in the country in the past few years. They are also the largest army in the Muslim world.
The office of Chief of Army Staff, the supreme leader of the armed forces of Pakistan, is considered an honored and influential position in Pakistan. The COAS holds a distinguished might and power signified by the repeated periods of Martial Laws in the history of Pakistan. Hence, the COAS is the most-sought figure by the people of Pakistan, as people look up to him in the times of crisis.
In the past 72-years of Independence, several army chiefs of distinct background, characteristics, personas, and political outlook have held the reign of armed forces of Pakistan. These army generals have actively shaped and altered the political and military dynamics of Pakistan.
Here is the list of 16 COAS that have served the Pakistan Army.
Frank Messervy was a British General who took charge of the Pakistan Army soon after the independence and served as the first Commander-in-Chief until February 10, 1948.
Following Frank Messervy, Douglas Gracey became the second Commander-in-Chief of Pakistan on February 11, 1948, and ended his term on January 16, 1951.
Ayub Khan replaced Douglas Gracey, as the first Pakistani to serve as Commander-in-Chief of Pakistan Army and later became the first Army General to serve as the President of Pakistan. He was just 43 when he was given the task to lead Pakistan’s Army and was the first Army general to impose the country’s first Martial Law. After becoming president, he elevated himself to the post of Field Marshal Rank and occupied the post of Army Chief for 7 years. His tenure ended on October 27, 1958.
The longest-serving Army General to hold the post of Commander-in-Chief, General Musa Khan commanded the Pakistan Army for 8 years starting from October 27, 1958, to September 17, 1966. General Musa was the Army Chief during the 1965 Pakistan-India war.
General Yahya Khan replaced Musa Khan as the Commander-in-Chief in 1966 and remained on the post for five years. He became the President of Pakistan in 1969 until December 20, 1971. General Yahya was the last C-in-C of a unified Pakistan.
Gul Hasan Khan
Lieutenant General Gul Hasan Khan was the first Army Chief of West Pakistan after the creation of Bangladesh. He, however, remained in his post for a brief period from December 20, 1971, to March 2, 1972.
General Tikka Khan was the first Chief of Army Staff, coming into the office on March 3, 1972, until March 1, 1976. He stayed in office for 4 years and stepped up to lead the Pakistani army at the age of 57 years and eight months, making him the third-oldest Army General to lead Pakistan Army.
One of the most popular army chiefs of Pakistan, General Zia-ul-Haq became the Army Chief on March 1, 1976, following a military coup in 1977, overthrowing Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, and replacing him as the sixth president of Pakistan. Under his reign, Pakistan’s military and political dynamics took a sharp turn, altering the future of Pakistan for decades to come. His rule ended with his death in an infamous plane crash in 1988.
Mirza Aslam Beg
General Mirza Aslam Beg was appointed as the next Chief of Army staff following Zia’s death in the plane crash. He stayed in power of the Army for 3 years and retired on August 16, 1991.
Asif Nawaz Janjua
General Asif Nawaz Janjua served the Pakistan Armed forces for a brief period, for nearly one and a half years. He died of a heart attack under mysterious circumstances at the age of 56.
Abdul Waheed Kakar
General Abdul Waheed Kakar replaced Asif Nawaz Janjua following his sudden death. He remained in office for three years before retiring on January 12, 1996.
Jehangir Karamat was a celebrated soldier who was the recipient of prestigious awards like Nishan-i-Imtiaz (Military) and Tamgha-i-Basalat. He assumed the charge of COAS on January 12, 1996, and his term ended on October 6, 1998.
General Pervez Musharraf
General Pervez Musharraf came into power after imposing Martial Law, overthrew the government of Mian Muhammad Nawaz Sharif in 1999, stayed in power for nearly nine years, and remained the president of Pakistan from June 2001 to August 2008. The then prime minister Nawaz Sharif has chosen him over General Ali Quli Khan and General Khalid Nawaz Khan.
Ashfaq Pervez Kiyani
General Ashfaq Pervez Kiyani succeeded General Pervez Musharraf and remained in power for six years after securing an extension until 2013.
General Raheel Sharif served for three years and is the brother of a Nishan-i-Haider recipient, Major Shabbir Sharif. His reign ended in 2016.
General Qamar Javed Bajwa
The current serving Chief of Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa assumed the post in 2016 and was to retire in November 2019. After given an extension from Prime Minister Imran Khan, General Bajwa is expected to lead the armed forces of Pakistan until 2022. He has also won the Nishan-i-Imtiaz and Hilal-i-Imtiaz for his services to the country.