With Pakistans powerful army chief Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayanis term coming to an end in November,names of top generals who are likely to succeed him are being discussed in the political circles and in the corridors of power here.
The appointment of the next army chief has gained wide attention in view of past difficulties faced by civilian governments in appointing persons to the coveted military post.
Another key post of Chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee (CJCSC) will fall vacant next month and analysts feel this would have a bearing on who becomes next army chief.
A number of names are in circulation for the army chief post and leading the race seems to be Lt Gen Haroon Aslam,currently Chief of Logistics Staff. He will be the seniormost general when Kayani steps down.
Lt Gen Aslam has served as Director Military Operations,commanded Elite Force Division (Special Services Group) and had been Corps Commander of Bahawalpur.
He also lead the successful anti-militancy operation in the Swat in 2009 and is due to retire on April 9 next year.
However,some analysts say he is likely to be made the CJCSC and a final name could be a surprise.
The other two in contention,based on seniority,will be Lt Gen Rashid Mehmood,Chief of General Staff and Lt Gen Raheel Sharif.
Following them is Lieutenant General Tariq Khan,Commander of 1 Strike Corps at Mangla and then ISI chief Lt Gen Zaheer-ul Islam at the fifth spot.
The appointment of a new army chief comes at a time when the country is facing huge national security issues and is in the midst of the NATO troop withdrawal in Afghanistan. The government is also in the initial stages of holding peace talks with the Pakistani Taliban and other militant groups.
Kayani,61,was appointed the army chief by former military ruler Pervez Musharraf in 2007. He was given an unprecedented three-year extension by then premier Yousuf Raza Gilani in 2010 and is set to retire on November 28.
I think the seniority will be a big criteria since Prime Minister himself has said so. But seniority does not mean other aspects would not be looked into. A lot of thought goes into the background of the officer,his postings,political inclination and whether he has led operations or commanded important Corps, Lt Gen (Retd) Talat Masood told PTI.