The Chief of Army Staff (COAS) of Pakistan is de facto the most powerful person in the nuclear-armed state. General Qamar Javed Bajwa serves as the COAS, making him the most influential person in Pakistan’s Armed Forces.
As COAS Bajwa will retire in November 2022, therefore, speculations are already making the rounds on who will be the next COAS of Pakistan.
According to reports, the top contenders include Lt General Azhar Abbas, Lt General Sahir, Lt General Nauman Mahmood, and Lt General Faiz Hameed. Currently, the popular choice among the public is Lt. General Faiz Hameed, owing to his recent trip to Kabul.
DG ISI’s visit to Kabul
Lt. General Faiz Hameed is the 24th Director General of Inter-Services Intelligence (DG-ISI) of Pakistan. He gained traction for his visit to Kabul which sparked great interest across the region.
Consequently, Indian media outlets framed the visit by DG ISI as a power show. They rebooted their old smear campaign stating that the Taliban are under Pakistani influence.
Important to note, at that time, the Taliban did not form an official government yet and DG ISI flew to Kabul to meet his counterpart. Federal Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry also defended the visit. He said that such unconventional contacts are necessary when there is a power vacuum in Afghanistan.
Pakistan, sharing a border with Afghanistan, had to ensure peace and stability in the region for its own security. As a result, the ISI Chief held key meetings on mutual cooperation with his counterpart Najibullah.
Moreover, DG ISI Faiz Hameed’s calm and cool demeanor also increased his popularity. In Kabul, a reporter asked him about the future of Afghanistan.
“What do you hope is going to happen now in Afghanistan,” a reporter asked Gen Faiz.
“We are working for peace and stability in Afghanistan,” said a member of Hameed’s entourage.
“Don’t worry, everything will be okay,” the ISI chief told the reporter with a smile.
"Will you be meeting senior people in the Taliban?"@lindseyhilsum asks Pakistan’s intelligence chief Lt Gen Faiz Hameed, about their hopes for Afghanistan as he arrives in Kabul. pic.twitter.com/rp72c8Si9E
— Channel 4 News (@Channel4News) September 4, 2021
The chances of Faiz Hameed becoming the next COAS
While Faiz Hameed may be the popular choice, in order to qualify for the post of COAS, a Lt General has to become a Corps Commander first.
Lt Gen Faiz Hameed was commissioned in the Baloch regiment and previously served as the head of the counterintelligence wing within ISI.
Furthermore, Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) announced that the Army reshuffled its top brass.
As per the reshuffle, Lt General Azhar Abbas became the new chief of general staff (CGS), who heads both the operational and intelligence wings of the army.
Lt General Sahir Shamshad Mirza, who was earlier serving as the CGS, would now head the Rawalpindi corps that looks after the Line of Control (LoC).
Nevertheless, once again the situation is uncertain as those in seniority to Faiz Hameed may retire before COAS Bajwa’s appointment.
COAS Bajwa himself was set to retire last year, but on 8 January 2020, the Senate of Pakistan passed the Pakistan Army (Amendment) Bill 2020, allowing for Bajwa’s tenure extension up to three years till 29 November 2022.