Islamabad: Even as Pakistan Army Chief General Javed Qamar Bajwa is set to retire on November 29 this year, speculation is rife that the Pakistani government led by Shehbaz Sharif may grant him another extension.

If given, this will be his second extension as the army chief. He was given a three-year extension on November 29, 2019. According to the media outlet Islam Khabar, the extension could be between six months and ten days.

All the speculation began after a reported meeting between Bajwa and PMLN supremo Nawaz Sharif in London early this month. Although Sharif had often criticised Bajwa for removing him and forcing him to leave Pakistan, political expediency has brought about a change in his stance.

Post the Bajwa-Sharif meeting, the current discussion on possible successors to Bajwa in November could take a new turn. The possible successors are - Corps Commander Rawalpindi Lt. Gen Sahir Shamshad Mirza., Lt. Gen. Azhar Abbas, Lt. Gen. Nauman Mahmood Raja, Lt. Gen. Faiz Hameed.

It must be noted that the three officers who are likely to remain in the queue would be Corps Commander Gujranwala Muhammad Amir and Corps Commander Multan Lt Gen Chiragh Haider and ISI DG Lt. Gen. Nadeem Ahmed Anjum Sheikh.

The media portal citing Pakistani local media reported that PPP leader Asif Ali Zardari, an architect of the current coalition government, is in favour of another extension to Bajwa. It also makes political sense considering Bajwa's troubled relationship with his former protégé, Imran Khan. A new Chief of Army Staff may not carry any such burden.

Meanwhile, Pakistan's Lieutenant General Faiz Hameed's surprise transfer discloses that the Pakistani Army Chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa is continually devising tactics to reconnect with the US which seeks a visible role in Afghanistan.

Apparently, General Hameed has boastfully claimed to have helped the Taliban oust the Americans last August and Americans suspect Hameed's role in supporting former Prime Minister Imran Khan's foreign conspiracy claims against the US for his ouster, reported Islam Khabar.

As Pakistan is hit by an economic catastrophe, Bajwa wants to keep Pakistan in Washington's good books.

Hameed, who was once touted to be in line to become the country's army chief, has been posted as commander of the Bahawalpur corps of the Pakistan Army, commonly referred to as the 31 Corps.

Notably, Faiz Hameed was considered to be close to former Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan who was ousted from power in April. In his long tenure as an Army person, Hameed has handled several key military and diplomatic roles.

There are other reasons as well. The Russia-Ukraine War, the continuing skirmish with Iran and the growing belligerence with China have hastened Washington's return to the region. Hameed transfer has also dimmed his prospects for the post of Chief of Army Staff (COAS) as Bajwa is set to retire.

Hameed, a former Director General of Pakistan's intelligence agency ISI is one of the four senior Generals in contention for COAS post and Bajwa is likely to nominate his successor in the next two months.

Secondly, Hameed's transfer could mean a possibility of a significant shift in Pakistan's Afghan policy, beginning with the ongoing talks with the militant group, Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP). Notably, TTP enjoys the patronage of the Afghan Taliban which rules Afghanistan and the abrupt removal of Hameed, reportedly with wide connections in the Taliban leadership, indicates his failure to find an early settlement with TTP.

Hameed's transfer also indicates the grumblings within the army leadership are not over yet but General Bajwa is determined to clean up the stables before he leaves.

Hailed as the hero of the Taliban victory in Afghanistan, Hameed, from sipping tea at Kabul's famous Serena Hotel, on September 4, 2021, to Bahawalpur has had a long and contentious journey.

He also played a key role in bringing Imran Khan to Islamabad and remained steadfast with his protégé even after General Bajwa had withdrawn his blessing. Hameed was moved out of ISI as Peshawar Corps Commander by Bajwa who was not happy with the subordinate officer usurping credit for the Taliban's return to Afghanistan.