Three of the four most important positions in Pakistan’s power structure will see new faces September onwards, starting with the election of a new president.
President Zardari’s term expires on September 9, followed by the retirement of the present army chief in October and the end of chief justice’s tenure in November.
Of the three, the successor to the chief justice seems to be the only one that can be identified at this stage, say observers.
The election commission confirmed on Saturday that it will shortly announce the schedule to elect a new president. The parliament – comprising the senate and the national assembly - elects the president and given the strong position enjoyed by the ruling PML-N party, it is apparent that the nominee of prime minister Nawaz Sharif will have a little trouble.
At this stage, political observers say, Sharif has indicated he would be nominating a candidate from the Balochistan or Sindh province. Some even speculate that the candidate could be a woman, making her the first woman president of the country.
But a more tricky challenge that awaits Sharif is the selection of the army chief in October.
While the prime minister has the right to nominate any one of the several military commanders to the position, there are expectations that the senior-most commander will be given the job.
In the past, Sharif had nominated Lt Gen Pervez Musharraf to the position, bypassing many others. “I doubt that precedence will be repeated,” says analyst Imtiaz Gul.
After the retirement of two senior most generals — Khalid Nawaz and Alam Khattak in October, the senior-most general would be Haroon Aslam.
However, General Aslam was also part of Musharraf’s team in 1999 which helped secure the military and install Musharraf to power.
Another option for army chief could be Rashid Mehmood, a former deputy chief of the ISI. Mehmood also enjoyed good relations with the Sharif brothers when he served as corps commander for Lahore. Third in the seniority list is Raheel Sharif, whose career is known to be devoid of any surprises.
A number of other generals are also being named for the possible position, including the current ISI chief, General Zaheerul Islam Janjua.
With regards the chief justice, the senior-most judge to succeed him would be the soft spoken Justice Tassaduq Husain Jilani. However, Jilani would be chief justice for six months only before he retires.