Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee Pakistan

ByM Ali Siddiqi

writer who contributes to leading periodicals


August 3, 2022

Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff

M Ali Siddiqi describes Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff

The Pakistani military is rated very high in the ranks of global militaries. It is renowned for its professional excellence and devotion to duty. It is the epitome of discipline and deeply adheres to its chain of command that is the key to its success as an armed outfit. The highest coordinating body of the military of Pakistan is the office of the Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff which is a principal military advisory body coordinating command operations between the armed services of Pakistan. The concept and need for a joint command system emerged during the world wars, particularly the Second World War, whereby the armed forces carried out action on land, sea and air. The vast areas of operations on land were buttressed by naval support and air cover. Instead of managing all such operations singularly it was decided that a body should be created that would be mandated to coordinate and oversee all joint actions.

In Pakistan this concept was turned into practice in 1976 under PM Zulfikar Bhutto that created an administrative body of senior high-ranking uniformed military leaders of the all arms of Pakistan’s defence forces with a view to advise civilian government on important military matters and significant non-military strategic matters. It is a platform composed of Army, Navy and Air Force chiefs who meet under the overall command of the senior-most four-star officer of the defence forces. JCSC is located in its headquarters based in Chaklala in Rawalpindi and act as its secretariat. The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee outranks all other four-star officers and his primary job is to assist the government as its principal military adviser. It advises the government about joint military planning, joint training, integrated joint logistics and strategic directions of the armed forces. JCSC provides assistance to government in all military matters and acts as a conduit between different services commands.

The JCSC is headed by a four-star military officer that means an army General, an Air Chief Marshal of the Air Force and an Admiral of the Navy qualify to be appointed to this position. The Chairman leads the meetings and coordinates the combined efforts of JSCS that comprises of COAS Army, Chief of Air Staff, Chief of Naval Staff, DG SPD, DG ISI, DG ISPR, Engineer-in-Chief, Commandant Marines, Naval Hydrographer, Flag Officer Sea Training (FOST), DG C4, DG Joint Ops, DG Joint Warfare and DG Joint Logistics. The Chairman’s mandate is to transmit strategic communication to the commanders from civilian head of the government. The Chairman is nominated and appointed by the executive head of the government and unlike the US system his appointment does not require the approval of the parliament.

The first Chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff committee was Gen Muhammad Sharif who later resigned his position owing to his differences with the then COAS Gen Ziaul Haq. Since then there have been 16 more Chairmen who served as CJCSC with varying lengths of tenure in their office. Out of the 16 Chairmen, 13 belonged to the army, 2 to the Navy and only one to the Air Force. The primary reason for keeping the position in the army is due to army’s pivotal role in supervising Pakistan’s nuclear assets as well being the largest segment of defence forces.
The shortest tenure served in the position belongs to Gen Ashfaq Pervez Kayani who served just 50 days as the first and probably the last acting CJCSC. The only naval officer to serve a full three year term was Admiral Muhammad Sharif who was though appointed by PM Bhutto but did not protest against Gen Zia’s action and also remained DMLA during martial law imposed in 1977. The other naval officer Admiral Iftikhar Sirohey could only manage a term of 2 years and seven months as he fell victim to the rivalry between PM Benazir Bhutto and President Ghulam Ishaq Khan. The only Air Force officer to be appointed to this office was Air Chief Marshal Farooq Feroze Khan who served a day short of three years.

The 13 army four-star officers who served in this position were able officers with proven professional experience. The fourth Chairman JCSC was Gen Rahimuddin Khan who was also the father-in-law of the son of President Zia. Gen Rahimuddin served as governor Balochistan for quite a long period and was posted as governor Sindh just before the demise of Gen Zia but immediately after that tragic event, resigned his office. He was followed by Gen Akhtar Abdul Rahman role in the first Afghan War against Soviet invasion of Afghanistan was greatly lauded both internally and internationally. He was also related to Gen Zia as his son was married to Gen Zia’s daughter he died in the plane crash with rest of the people who traveled with Gen Zia to the fateful demonstration of a tank in Khairpur Tamewali in South Punjab.

Another CJCSC was Gen Shamim Alam Khan who belonged to an established military household as all his siblings joined respective branches of the armed forces of Pakistan. He was promoted to four-star rank without superseding any officer and was appointed to the highest post in the military hierarchy. He was followed in the office by Air Chief Marshal Farooq Firoz Khan and then by Gen Jahangir Karamat who became the first officer to hold the dual charge of COAS and CJCSC. He remained CJCSC for more than eight months when he was relieved of both his offices. After a tiff with PM Sharif, Gen Karamat resigned and became the first COAS ever to resign from his office. Gen Karamat was later sent Pakistan’s ambassador to the US in 2004 but came back after one and a half years without completing his contractual tenure of two years.

Politics crept in after the resignation of Gen Karamat as PM Sharif did not want to appoint the senior-most defence forces officer Admiral Fasih Bukhari to the position of CJCSC who openly protested about him being side-tracked. PM Sharif not only sacked Bukhari but also gave CJCSC position to Gen Pervez Musharraf instead, who had shown no inclination for the position and actually favoured Admiral Bukhari and was known to have stated that he did not care. Gen Musharraf held this office for 3 years and then handed it over to Gen Aziz Khan who remained on this position for 3 years and then made way for Gen Ehsanul Haq. Gen Ehsan was the second officer after Gen Akhtar Abdul Rahman to have headed the ISI before being promoted to 4-star position and elevated as Chairman JCSC.

Gen Tariq Majid then took over the position and after serving his tenure of 3 years handed it over to Gen Khalid Shamim Wynne who passed away in 2017 in a traffic accident near Chakri on his way to Lahore. After his retirement came the juncture when Gen Kayani temporarily held the position after the delay caused in appointment of both positions of COAS and CJCSC during the prime ministership of Nawaz Sharif who finally appointed Gen Rashad Mahmood to this position although he was considered favourite for the position of COAS. He was followed by Gen Zubair Mahmood Hayat who was also the senior most general at the time of his elevation. The current CJCSC is General Nadeem Raza who holds an admirable service record and is highly valued. TW


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