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List of COAS (Chief of Army Staff) of Pakistan from 1947 to 2024

List of COAS (Chief of Army Staff) of Pakistan from 1947 to 2024

Last updated on November 23rd, 2023 at 06:48 pm

The title of Chief of Army Staff (COAS) is the senior most position an army officer can attain. Akin to the Prime Minister, the post is one of the strongest in the country. The title was created in 1972, succeeding the Commander-in-Chief of the Army.

Since its inception, the role has been occupied by some of the most influential people in Pakistan’s history that have irreversibly changed the socio-political landscape. Owing to the army’s tendency to act almost as a separate entity from the government, the Chief of Army Staff has often acted as a tool for the contemporary regime to further their political agenda and bring order and control to the country.

No. Image Chief of Army Staff Took office Left office Time in office Unit of Commission
01 List of COAS Khan, Tikka General
Tikka Khan HJ, HQA, SPk
3 March 1972 1 March 1976 3 years, 364 days 2 Fd Regt Arty
02 List of COAS Zia-ul-Haq, Muhammad General
Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq
1 March 1976 17 August 1988 12 years, 169 days 13 Lancers
03 List of COAS Beg, Mirza General
Mirza Aslam Beg NI(M), SBt
(born 1931)
17 August 1988 16 August 1991 2 years, 364 days 16 Baloch
04 List of COAS Janjua, Asif General
Asif Nawaz Janjua NI(M), SBt
16 August 1991 8 January 1993† 1 year, 145 days 5 Punjab
05 List of COAS Kakar, Abdul General
Abdul Waheed Kakar NI(M), SBt
(born 1937)
11 January 1993 12 January 1996 3 years, 1 day 5 FF
06 List of COAS Karamat, Jehangir General
Jehangir Karamat NI(M), TBt
(born 1941)
12 January 1996 6 October 1998 2 years, 267 days 13 Lancers
07 List of COAS Musharraf, Pervez General
Pervez Musharraf NI(M), TBt
6 October 1998 29 November 2007 9 years, 53 days 16 (SP) Medium Regt Arty
08 List of COAS Kayani, Ashfaq Parvez General
Ashfaq Pervez Kayani NI(M), HI(C)
(born 1952)
29 November 2007 29 November 2013 6 years, 0 days 5 Baloch
09 List of COAS Sharif, Raheel General
Raheel Sharif NI(M), HI(M)
(born 1956)
29 November 2013 29 November 2016 3 years, 0 days 6 FF
10 List of COAS Bajwa, Qamar General
Qamar Javed Bajwa NI(M), HI(M)
(born 1960)
29 November 2016 29 November 2022 6 years, 0 days 16 Baloch
11 List of COAS Munir, Asim General
Asim Munir NI(M), HI(M)
(born 1968)
29 November 2022 Incumbent 351 days 23 FF

Jehangir Karamat

Date of Birth & Death Office Tenure Unit of Commission
20 February 1941 – Alive 2 years, 267 days (12 Jan 1996 – 6 Oct 1998) 13 Lancers

Jehangir Karamat, the 6th Chief of Army Staff was quite an intellectual, having the foresight prediction of many future issues the country and his successors would have to face. He also suggested many security reforms that were first rejected during his tenure, but would eventually become part of the Legislature. Karamat joined the army in 1958 and graduated from the PMA. He saw combat in the Indo-Pakistan wars and was the one to expose the coup d’etat against Benazir Bhutto.

After Kakar’s retirement, Benazir appointed him as the next COAS. As Chief of Army Staff, he made attempts to better the cooperation between the President and Prime Minister and enhanced the role of democracy in the country. He even predicted that soon Benazir’s government would be dismissed. He was also appointed as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs committee. His support for Nawaz Sharif’s atomic testing program cemented the country as a nuclear power.

But the same year, due to some disagreements over national security and Intelligence agency reforms, Jehangir retired but he still played a role in Pakistani politics. From 2004 to 2006, he was the Pakistani Ambassador to the US. He also had growing concerns over the army’s involvement in the civil government and foreign-funded domestic terrorist attacks. His concerns would soon come to pass as Musharraf overthrew the government and terrorist attacks became rampant in the country after the 2000s.

Perwez Musharraf

Date of Birth & Death Office Tenure Unit of Commission
11 August 1943 – Alive 9 years, 53 days (6 Oct 1998 – 29 Nov 2007) 16 (SP) Medium Regt Arty

Much like Zia Ul Haq, Musharaf’s involvement in Pakistani politics is far beyond the scope of this article. Instead, we will be focussing on his years as Chief of Army Staff before he fled the country and was charged with high treason. In his pre-COAS military career, Musharaf partook in the Indo-Pakistan wars and earned an education at the Royal College of Defense studies in Britain.

He directed operations at the time of the Bosnian war and his last field post was in the Mangla region of Kashmir. During that time, he also grew close to Benazir, viewing her as his mentor, and even joined her staff, assisting and advising her during times of political turmoil. Then by 1998, General Keramat had been removed from the committee of Chairman Joint Chiefs and subsequently resigned as Chief of Army Staff. Among 4 candidates Musharraf was personally selected and promoted by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to become the 7th COAS. Just a year into his tenure, however, Musharaf unilaterally initiated the Kargil wars with India that could’ve possibly resulted in a nuclear war.

He also launched a coup, suspending the constitution and dissolving the current government. Naming himself Chief Executive, Musharaf made numerous constitutional reforms in hopes of taking power away from the Prime Minister. He promised a return to democracy however which came to pass in 2002 when general elections were held. He successfully passed the XVII amendment which gave the power to dissolve the parliament. But before the elections, he had already cemented himself as the President of Pakistan. During his Presidency, his liberalist beliefs and Benazir’s influence affected many of the changes he made.

After multiple controversies like the atomic issue, the Lal Masjid Incident, and contributions to the “war on terror”, public resentment towards Musharraf grew, calling for his impeachment in 2007. By that time, however, Musharraf was facing an immense international backlash as well. To secure his presidency for 5 more years, he called for another state of emergency, a gross misuse of his constitutional power. Finally, in November of 2007, he resigned as CAOS, and in the August of the following year, he fled to London in self-exile. He is by far the longest-lasting Chief of Army Staff in the country’s history.

Ashfaq Pervez Kayani

Date of Birth & Death Office Tenure Unit of Commission
20 April 1952 – Alive 6 years, 0 days (29 Nov 2007 – 29 Nov 2013) 5 Baloch

Originally the military’s second-in-command, Ashfaq succeeded Musharraf after the latter’s resignation in 2007. But before his career as COAS, he was the 17th Director General of Inter-Services Intelligence. He directed ISI operations during the time of nuclear proliferation and as terrorist attacks within the country became widespread. He also leads 2 successful investigations into the suicide attempts against Musharraf. Musharraf considered him an ally, even requesting his company during the negotiations with Bhutto and when the Chief Justice was suspended. He was replaced soon before he was appointed COAS.

As for his military escapades, he was part of the 1971 Indo-Pakistan war and played a distinct role in Pakistan’s “war on terror”. As COAS, Ashfaq worked to reverse the changes Musharraf had made in the army, removing them from politics and many city departments. He also ensured the army’s full support of the new government after the 2008 general elections.

US and Pakistani relations had worsened following their drone attack at FATA that killed many tribal leaders. Though Kayani understood the public’s anti-American sentiment had just increased, he held a meeting between the CIA and ISI to come to some mutual agreement. He convinced the CIA to suspend their drones and remove the excess personnel they had in the country, ultimately salvaging the situation. As his term was about to end, it was speculated Kayani would join the Committee of Joint Chief Staff, renewing his term but, that would not come to be. He retired in November 2013.

Raheel Shareef

Date of Birth & Death Office Tenure Unit of Commission
16 June 1956 – Alive 3 years, 0 days (29 Nov 2013 – 29 Nov 2016) 6 FF

Raheel Shareef is beloved by the public and his contributions against the terrorism rampant in Pakistan during the 2010s have made the country a much safer place. Compared to 2006, terrorist attacks were reduced by 80% during his tenure. He single-handedly brought the country out of its darkest time and for his contributions, he is one of the most respected and honored army officials in Pakistani history.

His decision to join the military came as no surprise as he had a prominent military background. His brother is one of the most decorated Pakistani soldiers, even being given the Nishan-e-Haider. In all aspects, he had outstanding military service and was a seasoned soldier. Then In November 2013, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif announced his intention of appointing Lieutenant General Raheel Shareef as the 9th Chief of Army Staff.

As COAS, he worked to divert the army’s attention towards the Taliban and away from India, overseeing the training of troops and reforming military doctrines. His work wasn’t limited to countering terrorism, however. Raheel Shareef helped reduce violence in Karachi, worked towards reconciliation for the Balochi people, and strengthened the role of the military in affairs related to national security and foreign policy. Even after his retirement in 2016, he is serving Pakistan and the Muslim world as a whole. He became the Commander in Chief of the Islamic Military Counter Terrorism Coalition, a 41-nation group, in 2017.

Qamar Javed Bajwa

Date of Birth & Death Office Tenure Unit of Commission
11 November 1960 – Alive 6 years, 0 days (29 Nov 2016 – 29 Nov 2022) 16 Baloch

The current 10t and 10th Chief of Army Staff Qamar Javed Bajwa, better known as simply Bajwa, is currently nearing the end of his second 2nd term as COAS. His father was a shaheed soldier so Bajwa grew up with just his mom and siblings. He chose the same career path as his late father and received his military training from the US and Canada.

He also studied at the NDU and Pakistan Military Academy in Kakul, like many of his predecessors. 10 years into his military career, Bajwa was already a one-star general appointed as Chief of Staff of the X Corps. He also commanded the Pakistan Armed Forces- Africa Command at Congo during the UN peacekeeping attempts. His most famous military service has to be his post as field Commander of the X Corps, the largest and strongest in the country responsible for the area along the Kashmir Line of Control. Bajwa also worked with COAS Raheel Shareef as a Principal Staff Officer.

After Raheel Shareef denied an extension, Qamar Javed Bajwa was selected to be the next COAS, superseding 2 generals. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was fond of his pro-democracy ideals and nonchalant attitude. As the Chief of Army Staff, Bajwa contributed to the fight against terrorism spearheaded by his predecessor. He also vowed to apprehend the criminals responsible for attacks against Chinese nationals and suggested a security reform for Islamabad in an attempt to lessen their dependency on China.

His biggest controversy has to be the 2018 general elections where for the first time in many decades the PPP nor the PMLN won majority votes. Pakistan Tehreek e Insaf won the general elections and Imran Khan became the Prime Minister of Pakistan. All opposition parties, especially Nawaz Sharif accused General Bajwa of manipulating the votes so PTI could win.

To this day Nawaz Sharif blames Bajwa for his party’s loss and put pressure on the Supreme Court to launch an investigation into the elections.  A doctrine was also passed in his name- the Bajwa Doctrine, a blueprint for better security in Pakistan and US- Pakistani military cooperation. He retired on the 27th of November 2022.

Asim Munir

Date of Birth & Death Office Tenure Unit of Commission
1968 – Alive 29 November 2022-  In Office 23 FF

A Pakistani four-star general, Asim Munir Ahmed Shah HI(M) previously held the position of quartermaster general at GHQ before becoming Army Chief. From 17 June 2019 to 6 October 2021, he commanded the XXX Corps (Pakistan) in Gujranwala. His replacement by Lt. Gen. Faiz Hameed on 16 June 2019 marked the end of his tenure as the 23rd Director-General of ISI. A sword of honor has also been awarded to him. His appointment as 11th Chief of Army Staff was announced on 24 November 2022 by Pakistani Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif.

Currently enrolled in the 17th course of the Officers Training School in Mangla, Asim Munir holds an officer’s commission. Frontier Force Regiment’s 23rd Battalion commissioned him. As a member of the military, he has served since 1986. Previously, he was Director General of Military Intelligence, which he held until September 2018. In March 2018, he was awarded the Hilal-i-Imtiaz. Previously, he was commander of troops deployed in Pakistan’s northern areas.

According to the plan of the ceremony, Asim Munir was presented with the Nishan-i-Imtiaz (Military) award on December 8, 2022. During the investiture ceremony at the Aiwan-e-Sadr, diplomats, lawmakers, and federal ministers attended and were able to see Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif.

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