A brief history of tenure extensions in the armed forces

Umar Cheema
Photo: File

ISLAMABAD: While seven army chiefs have been granted extensions to-date, there is one air chief marshal who secured extension and five naval chiefs also received extensions in the country’s 72-year history. Incidentally, air chiefs and naval chiefs had benefitted from the extensions during military regimes when martial law administrators themselves were on extension as well.

“Anwar Shamim was the only air chief marshal that I know who was granted extension,” said Air Marshal (R) Shahid Lateef while talking to Geo News. Anwar Shamim headed the air force during Gen Zia’s rule who had granted extension to himself as well in 1979 and continued on it until his death in August 1988 in plane crash.

When asked why no other air chief was granted extension afterwards, Shahid Lateef said since army chief is considered more important than other services chiefs therefore the issue has largely remained limited to this office. It has never been an issue in the air force, he said. 

As Army Act governs the functioning of the Army, there is Air Force Law Manual for the Air Force and Navy Regulations are for the naval force. None of the statute has clear directions about the extension or re-employment of the respective chiefs.

Pakistan Navy has had five chiefs who served in top office beyond the prescribed period. Admiral Haji Mohammad Sadiq Chaudhry, commonly known as HSM Chaudhry, was the first native chief of naval forces appointed in 1953 and remained at this position till 1959 when he had resigned after differences with Gen Ayub Khan, then army chief, president. 

He is said to have served at this position for extended period due to lack of officers in naval force. “There was acute shortage of regular officers by that time. Majority of the officers had joined through short courses,” according to Rear Admiral (R) Tanvir Ahmed.

HSM Chaudhry was succeeded by Admiral Afzal Rehman Khan, commonly known as AR Khan, who remained on extension for three years. 

By then, a service chief used to have tenure of four years. AR Khan was kept on extension for another three years. Ayub Khan, who granted him extension, had availed two extensions before elevating himself to the position of field marshal in 1959.

After Ayub era, the extension culture returned to Pakistan Navy during Gen Zia’s dictatorship. Admiral Muhammad Sharif was granted one year extension. By then, tenure of services chiefs was reduced to three years from four years. In total, he served as naval chief for four years. 

Another naval chief during Gen Zia regime was also granted extension: Admiral Karamat Rehman Niazi. He was the last in this category. From Tariq Kamal Khan onwards, no naval chief has received extension