Pakistan’s top military commander, General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, retires in November after six years as chief of the country’s most powerful institution.
Kayani, seen as the second most powerful man in Pakistan, has headed the military since November 2007. The army chief is largely credited with halting the pattern of military intervention in politics and allowing democracy to develop. But extremism and terrorism also flourished under his watch, said author and analyst Ahmed Rashid.
“Well I think there is no doubt that the fact that the army has not intervened and has allowed, if you like, given the expression, allowed two civilian governments to follow one another is quite unique for Pakistan, and some of that credit would go to Kayani," he said.
The general has wielded power since becoming the head of the country’s powerful intelligence services in 2004. And since then, terrorism has continued to plague the country," said Rashid.
“And if we take that whole period from 2004 to 2013, what we see is a massive escalation and deterioration in the state of Pakistan, and the attacks by terrorist groups from extremist groups. "
There are those within the military who believe that Kayani too often succumbed to the civilian leadership’s apparent distaste for military operations against militants. Whoever takes his place will have to face that challenge, said retired Brigadier Shaukat Qadir
“For those who understand the nuances, diplomacy cannot work without the threat at least of the use [of] force," he said. "They are tied together with an umbilical cord. So he has to position himself in such a way as he does pose a threat, a palpable threat, even if he is not doing anything at that point in time.
As army chief, Kayani also has overseen a large portion of the country’s national security policy and foreign policy.
With the withdrawal of international forces from neighboring Afghanistan, and Pakistan's desire to see a pro-Islamabad government in place there, Kayani is not likely to want to completely step out of the picture, said military analyst Ayeesha Siddiqa.
“I think he probably wants to remain in the decision making to at least see the changes, oversee the changes made post 2014, or before 2014, now which side is he playing, God knows - does he really want to finish off the militant forces - I have my doubts," Siddiqa said.
The belief is, whoever takes Kayani's place, the military-civilian balance will likely continue. But so will other institutional policies such as using militants as proxy forces, portraying India as the enemy and vying for influence in Afghanistan.