One of Pakistan’s most powerful men, General Ashfaq Kayani, is likely to stay head of the military with a new title when he steps down as army chief next month, government and security sources said.
The expected move comes at a time when Islamist violence is on the rise in Pakistan, tension boils with arch rival India over disputed Kashmir and as PM Nawaz Sharif seeks to shore up a stable government just months into his job.
And for the US, it would mean continuity in Pakistan’s approach ahead of a pullout of most foreign troops in neighbouring Afghanistan at the end of 2014.
There has been speculation over who will take over as chief of the army, which has ruled the nuclear-armed South Asian nation for more than half of its history since independence in 1947, when Kayani steps down.
Sources and aides close to Kayani said Sharif wanted to make him head of a revamped and more powerful Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee (JCSC).
One senior intelligence official said Sharif planned to overhaul the JCSC, a largely ceremonial office, into a “central defence body” by restoring its command over the entire military establishment and giving it additional powers.