The Chief of Army Staff (reporting name: COAS), is the four-star rank appointment in the Pakistan Army, held by the senior four-star ranking officer appointed and confirmed by the President of Pakistan, on a nomination approval summary sent by the Prime Minister of Pakistan.
The Chief of Army Staff post has historically been vested with proportionately more powers because of the recurrent enforced military laws in the country. It is the highest and most prestigious four-star assignment, unless the four-star officer is appointed as the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee of the Pakistan Armed Forces– the highest ranking officer who is senior to the Chiefs of Staff of Army, Air Force, Navy and respected chiefs of other military services.
The appointment is in principle for three years subject to extensions granted by The President of Pakistan on recommendation and approval from the Prime Minister of Pakistan.
The appointment is vested with complete operational, training and logistics commands unlike the pattern followed in Western Commands where the Chief of Army Staff is the training and logistics chief while operational command rests with the Ministry of Defense. The current Chief of Army Staff is General Qamar Javed Bajwa The COAS operates from the Army GHQ in the vicinity of Rawalpindi District– the twin city of the capital Islamabad.
General Tikka Khan, (10 February 1915 – 28 March 2002) HJ, S.Pk, was a four-star rank army general in the Pakistan Army who served as the first chief of army staff from 3 March 1972 till retiring on 1 March 1976.
Gaining commission as an artillery officer in the British Indian Army to participate in World War II in 1940, his military career commanded the infantry divisions in the war with India in 1965. In 1969, he was posted to command the IV Corps while acting as martial law administrator in West Pakistan under President Yahya Khan. In 1971, he took over the command of army’s Eastern Command in East Pakistan and appointed as Governor of East Pakistan where he oversaw the planning and the military deployments to execute the military operations to quell the liberation war efforts by Awami League. His tough rhetoric to deal with political enemies earned him the notoriety and a nickname of “Touka” (means cleaver) and was soon relieved of his command by President Yahya Khan.
After commanding the II Corps in the war with India in 1971, Tikka Khan was promoted to four-star rank and appointed as the first chief of army staff of the Pakistan Army in 1972. As army chief, he provided his support to the clandestine nuclear weapons programme alongside with Ghulam Ishaq Khan— a bureaucrat. Upon retirement from the military in 1976, he was subsequently appointed as National Security Advisor by Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, only to be removed in 1977 as a result of enforced martial law.
In the 1980s, he remained active as a political worker of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and emerged as its leader when appointed as Governor of Punjab after the general elections held in 1988. After Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto was dismissed by President Ghulam Ishaq Khan in 1990, his tenure was terminated and was succeeded by Mian Muhammad Azhar. He retired from the politics in 1990. He died on 28 March 2002 and was buried with full military honours in Westridge cemetery in Rawalpindi, Punjab, Pakistan.
Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq (12 August 1924 – 17 August 1988) was a Pakistani four-star general who served as the 6th President of Pakistan from 1978 until his death in 1988, after declaring martial law in 1977. He remains the country’s longest-serving de facto head of state.
Educated at Delhi University, Zia saw action in World War II as a British Indian Army officer in Burma and Malaya, before opting for Pakistan in 1947 and fighting as a tank commander in the Indo-Pakistani War of 1965. In 1970, he led a military training mission to Jordan, proving instrumental to defeating the Black September insurgency against King Hussein. In recognition, Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto appointed Zia Chief of Army Staff in 1976. Following civil disorder, Zia deposed Bhutto in a military coup and declared martial law on 5 July 1977. Bhutto was controversially tried by the Supreme Court and executed less than two years later, for allegedly authorising the murder of Ahmed Raza Kasuri, a political opponent.
Assuming the presidency in 1978, Zia played a major role in the Soviet–Afghan War. Backed by the United States and Saudi Arabia, Zia systematically coordinated the Afghan mujahideen against the Soviet occupation throughout the 1980s. This culminated in the Soviet Union’s withdrawal in 1989, but also led to the proliferation of millions of refugees, with heroin and weaponry into Pakistan’s frontier province.
On the foreign front, Zia also bolstered ties with China and the United States, and emphasised Pakistan’s role in the Islamic world, while relations with India worsened amid the Siachen conflict and accusations that Pakistan was aiding the Khalistan movement. Domestically, Zia passed broad-ranging legislation as part of Pakistan’s Islamization, curbed civil liberties, and heightened press censorship. He also escalated Pakistan’s atomic bomb project, and instituted industrialisation and deregulation, helping Pakistan’s economy become the fastest-growing in South Asia. Averaged over Zia’s rule, GDP growth was the highest in the country’s history.
After lifting martial law and holding non-partisan elections in 1985, Zia appointed Muhammad Khan Junejo Prime Minister but accumulated more presidential powers via the Eighth Amendment to the Constitution. After Junejo signed the Geneva Accords in 1988 against Zia’s wishes, and called for an inquiry into the Ojhri Camp disaster, Zia dismissed Junejo’s government and announced fresh elections in November 1988. He was killed along with several of his top military officials and two American diplomats in a mysterious plane crash near Bahawalpur on 17 August 1988.
To this day, Zia remains a polarising figure in Pakistan’s history, credited for preventing wider Soviet incursions into the region as well as economic prosperity, but decried for weakening democratic institutions and passing laws encouraging religious intolerance. He is also cited for promoting the early political career of Nawaz Sharif, who would be thrice elected Prime Minister.
Mirza Aslam Beg
General Mirza Aslam Beg ( born 2 August 1931) LOM, NI(M), HI(M)), SBt, TeJ, also known as M. A. Beg, is a retired four-star rank army general in the Pakistan Army, who served as its Chief of Army Staff from 1988 until his retirement in 1991. His appointment as chief of army staff came when his predecessor, President General Zia-ul-Haq, died in an air crash on 17 August 1988.
Beg’s tenure witnessed Benazir Bhutto as being elected Prime Minister in November 1988, and the restoration of democracy and the civilian control of the military in the country. Controversial accusations were levelled against him of financing the Islamic Democracy Alliance (IDA), the conservative and right-wing opposition alliance against left-wing PPP, and rigging subsequent general elections in 1990.
As a result of general elections, Nawaz Sharif was elected Prime Minister in 1990, but fell out with Beg when the latter recommended support for Iraq during the Gulf War. Beg was denied an extension from President Ghulam Ishaq Khan soon after in 1991, and replaced by General Asif Nawaz as chief of army staff. Apart from his military career, Beg briefly tenured as professor of security studies at the National Defence University (NDU) and regularly writes columns in The Nation.
Beg’s post-retirement has been characterized by controversies: first, Beg was accused of playing an internal role in the airplane crash that killed President Zia, and, second, he was summoned to the Supreme Court of Pakistan in 2012 for his alleged role in releasing the financial funding to the conservative politicians as opposed to the Pakistan Peoples Party’s politicians during the general elections held in 1990.
General Asif Nawaz Jnjua ( 3 January 1937 – 8 January 1993).NI(m), HI(M), SBt, psc), was a four star rank army general in the Pakistan Army who served as the fourth Chief of Army Staff from 16 August 1991 until 8 January 1993.
His tenure is regarded of stabilizing the civilian control of the Pakistani military, and is one of two chief of staff who died in the office- the other being Adm. H.H. Ahmed in 1975.
General Abdul Waheed Kakar ( born. 23 March 1937), NI(M), SBt, is a retired four-star rank army general in the Pakistan Army who served as the Chief of Army Staff, appointed on 12 January 1993 until retiring on 12 January 1996.
His appointment came in response to the sudden death of tenuring army chief, General Asif Nawaz, and notably superseded five senior high ranking army generals with more years of seniority. General Kakar oversaw the national general elections after he secured the resignations of President Ghulam Ishaq Khan and Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to resolve the Constitutional crisis in 1993.
General Jehangir Karamat (born 20 February 1941) LOM, NI(M), SBt, best known as JK, is a retired four-star rank army general, diplomat, public intellectual, and a former professor of political science at the National Defense University. Appointed first to be served as the Chief of Army Staff of the Pakistan Army in 1996, he was elevated as the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee in 1997 until 1998.
After joining the Pakistan Army in 1958, he entered in the Pakistan Military Academy at Kakul, and passed out in 1961 to later serve in the combat in conflicts with India in 1965 and in 1971. In 1995, he came into national prominence after he notably exposed the attempted coup d’état against Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, and eventually appointed as an army chief and later Chairman joint chiefs. His tenureship is regarded as his pivotal role in enhancing the democracy and the civilian control when he staunchly backed Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s authorisation of atomic-testing programme in 1998.
On 6 October 1998, Karamat was forced to relieved from his four-star commands by Prime minister Nawaz Sharif over a disagreement on national security and reforms of the intelligence community. He is also one of very few army generals in the military history of Pakistan to have resigned over a disagreement with the civilian authorities.
After his resignation, he accepted the professorship at the Stanford University in California and appointed as to head Pakistan’s diplomatic mission as an Ambassador but was later removed. Karamat has been credited for foresight prediction of the dangers of unbalanced civil-military relations and the rise of foreign-supported homegrown terrorism in the country. Many of his recommendations on national security were eventually became part of counterterrorism policy by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in 2013.
Pervez Musharraf ( born 11 August 1943) is a Pakistani politician and retired four-star general of the Pakistan Army, who was the 10th President of Pakistan from 2001 until tendering his resignation, to avoid impeachment, in 2008.
Born in Delhi during the British Raj, Musharraf was raised in Karachi and Istanbul. He went on to study mathematics at the Forman Christian College in Lahore and would later study at the Royal College of Defence Studies in 1991. Musharraf entered the Pakistan Military Academy in 1961 and was commissioned in the Pakistan Army in 1964 and went on to play an active role in the Afghan civil war.
Musharraf saw action in the Indo-Pakistani War of 1965 as a second lieutenant; by the 1980s, Musharraf was commanding an artillery brigade. In the 1990s, he was promoted to major general and assigned an infantry division, and later commanded the Special Services Group. Later he served as deputy military secretary and the director-general of military operation.
Musharraf rose to national prominence when he was elevated to a four-star general, appointed by then-Prime Minister Sharif in October 1998, making Musharraf the head of the armed forces. He led the Kargil infiltration that almost brought India and Pakistan to a full-fledged war in 1999. After months of contentious relations with Prime Minister Sharif, Sharif unsuccessfully attempted to remove Musharraf from the army’s leadership. In retaliation, the army staged a coup d’état in 1999 which allowed Musharraf to take-over Pakistan and subsequently placed Prime Minister Sharif under a strict house-arrest before moving towards a trial against Sharif in Adiala Prison.
Musharraf became the head of the military government while remaining the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs in 2001 and the Chief of the Army Staff. Although, Musharraf relinquished the position of Chairman of Joint Chiefs in 2001, he remained the Army Chief until retiring from the army in 2007. He became the President of Pakistan on 20 June 2001, only to win a controversial referendum on 1 May 2002 which awarded him five years of presidency. In October the same year, he oversaw a general election in which the army-backed PML-Q was successful.
During his presidency, he advocated for a third way for varying synthesis of conservatism and left-wing ideas, he appointed Shaukat Aziz in place of Sharif and directed policies against terrorism, becoming a key player in the American-led war on terror. Over the next several years, Musharraf survived a number of assassination attempts. He reinstated the constitution in 2002, though it was heavily amended with the Legal Framework Order. He also saw a process of social liberalism under his enlightened moderation program, while also promoting economic liberalisation and banning trade unions. He oversaw a rise of in overall gross domestic product at around 50%, however domestic savings declined and saw a rapid rise in economic inequality. Musharraf’s government has also been accused of human rights abuses.
As Shaukat Aziz departed as Prime Minister, and after approving the suspension of the judicature branch in 2007, Musharraf’s position was dramatically weakened in early 2008. Tendering his resignation in a threat to face potential impeachment movement led by the ruling Pakistan People’s Party in 2008, Musharraf moved to London in self-imposed exile after returning to Pakistan to participate in the general elections held in 2013.
While absent from Pakistan, Musharraf engaged in legal battles after the country’s high courts issued warrants for him and Aziz for their alleged involvement in the assassinations of Benazir and Bugti. Upon his return, Musharraf was disqualified from taking part in the elections by High Court judges in April 2013. On 31 March 2014, Musharraf was booked and charged with high treason for implementing emergency rule and suspending the constitution in 2007. On 31 August 2017, he was declared an “absconder” by Pakistan’s anti-terrorism court in verdict of Benazir Bhutto murder case. His legacy is mixed; his era saw the emergence of a more assertive middle class, but his disregard for civilian institutions weakened the state of Pakistan.
Ashfaq Parvez Kayani
General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani (born 20 April 1952), NI(M), HI(C), LOM, is a retired four-star rank army general in the Pakistan Army who served as the Chief of Army Staff (COAS), being appointed on 29 November 2007 until 29 November 2013.
Initially appointed as Vice Chief of Army Staff (VCOAS) under then-President Pervez Musharraf on 8 October 2007, he formally took over the command of the army when President Pervez Musharraf retired from his military service on 29 November 2007. In addition, General Kayani served as the Director-General of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and as director of the Directorate-General of Military Operations (DGMO), overseeing major war efforts in the war on terror. On 24 July 2010, Kayani’s commission was renewed for three more years by Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gillani to continue the war efforts against the insurgent outfits.
Raheel Sharif (born 16 June 1956), NI(M), HI(M), is a retired Pak Army general who served as the 9th Chief of Army Staff of the Pakistan Army, from 29 November 2013 to 29 November 2016. He is largely considered to be the one of the most popular army generals in the country’s history. He currently serves as the Commander-In-Chief of Islamic Military Counter Terrorism Coalition, a 39-nation alliance of Muslim countries.
Under General Raheel Sharif’s command, the Army carried out operations in North Waziristan, namely Operation Zarb-e-Azb which stabilized the North-west of the country. He expanded the role of paramilitaries in Karachi which is widely credited with reducing the level of violence in Pakistan’s commercial capital. The Pakistani military under his command has also supported the democratically elected government on the federal level and the Baloch provincial and local government in ending the Balochistan insurgency by pursuing reconciliation and integration of former militants back into mainstream Pakistani society.
General Sharif also developed a new brigade-level military unit to help protect and secure the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor which runs through Balochistan province.
General Sharif helped to develop Pakistan’s indigenous defence industry which resulted in the savings of more than $1.14 billion of Pakistan’s forex, over a year and half time period.
General Sharif achieved his objectives by strengthening the role of the military in affairs directly concerning national security and foreign policy, while leaving the civilian government of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in control of social and economic policy were reconciling Pakistan with America by striking against militant groups near the Afghan border, carrying out Pakistan’s first joint military exercises with Russia,and deepening relations with China.
He became the first Pakistani general to retire on time and not seek an extension in over twenty years. General Sharif said that he was “ready to serve Pakistan” even after his retirement through helping military veterans. General Sharif left a respected legacy in Pakistan. He is widely credited with reducing terrorism inside the country; violence in the country was reduced to its lowest level since 2006, with an overall decline of 70% in terrorist attacks under his tenure.
Qamar Javed Bajwa
General Qamar Javed Bajwa (born 11 November 1960), NI(M), HI(M), is the 10th and current Chief of Army Staff(COAS) of the Pakistan Army since 29 November 2016. Born in Karachi, Bajwa was educated at the Sir Syed College and Gordon College in Rawalpindi before joining the Pakistan military Academy in 1978.
Bajwa was commissioned in 1980 in the 16th Battalion of the Baloch Regiment. Prior to his appointment as the Chief of Army Staff of Pakistan Army, he served at the Army GHQ as the Inspector General of the Training and Evaluation from 22 September 2015 to 29 November 2016 and as field commander of the X Corps from 14 August 2013 to 22 September 2015 which is responsible for the area along the Line of Control at Kashmir. In addition, he served as a Brigadier in the UN mission in Congo and as a brigade commander in 2007.