In this article, you will get all the information regarding List of COAS (Chief of Army Staff) of Pakistan from 1947 to 2022 |

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.

Stationed at the army’s General Headquarters in Rawalpindi, the duties of a COAS include supervising the Army Staff and having complete responsibility over operational, training, and logistics commands.

The procedure for selecting a Chief of Army Staff follows his nomination being approved by the Prime Minister and confirmed by the President of Pakistan. After selection, the COAS will take office for three years but extensions are quite common. As of October 2022, 10 4-star rank army generals have been appointed as COAS. Join us as we summarise the tenures of all appointed CAOS, in chronological order.

Tikka Khan

Date of Birth & Death Office Tenure Unit of Commission
10 February 1915 – 28 March 2002 3 years, 364 days (3 March 1972 – 1 March 1976) 2 Fd Regt Arty

Tikka Khan was the first ever Chief of Army Staff and was appointed by Bhutto who abolished the role of Commander-in-Chief after coming to office in 1972. He had a highly controversial tenure with many calling his actions ruthless and bloodthirsty. He is even regarded as the Bucher of Bangladesh due to the many travesties that occurred in East Pakistan under his orders.

His military career started as a sepoy in the British Indian army and when World War II rolled around, he was stationed in Libya, Burma, and different parts of India. After Pakistan’s independence, as the General officer in command of the 8th infantry division, he fought in the Pakistan-India war of 1965.

His victory against the Rann of Katch and at the Battle of Chawinda saw him being regarded as a war hero, with many attributing Pakistan’s triumph over the Indian army to Tikka. However, Tikka Khan was also the chief architect behind the Bangladesh Genocide, Operation Searchlight, and the Dhaka University Massacre in 1971.

As the commander of the army’s Eastern Command, he eradicated all opposition in East Pakistan. His famous order “I want the land and not the people” resulted in civilian, academic, and liberal deaths numbered to be anywhere between 300,000 and 3,000,000.

After much uproar, he was replaced as a commander but he continued to fight in the 1971 war with India. As the Chief of Army Staff, he supported atomic power development and crushed the Baloch independence movement. Upon retirement in 1976, he joined the PPP, was appointed as the national security advisor, and became Governor of Punjab. He formally retired from politics in 1990.

Note: From 1972 onwards, the Chief of the Army Staff (COAS) replaced the previous title of Commander-in-Chief of the Pakistan Army.

Zia Ul Haq

Date of Birth & Death Office Tenure Unit of Commission
12 August 1924 – 17 August 1988 12 years, 169 days (1 March 1976 – 17 Aug 1988) 22 Cavalry

Zia Ul Haq is by far the most notorious member on this list. The sentencing of Bhutto, the country’s first period of martial law, and his mysterious death in a plane crash are known by all Pakistanis, young and old. Opinions on Zia are quite polarizing with many considering him a blot in the country’s democratic history while others applauded him for his Islamization of the judicial and economic system.

In his early military career, Zia saw action in World War II and the Indo-Pakistan wars. He lead training operations in Jordan and defeated the Black September resurgence. His accolades during his military career made him a potential candidate for COAS and in 1976, Prime Minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto selected him to be the 2nd COAS. This decision, however, would soon cost him his life as just a year into his tenure, Zia staged a coup and suspended the constitution.

The coup had started as a response to public outrage when PNA boycotted the provincial elections of 1977 and deemed Bhutto’s win illegitimate. Bhutto thus imposed martial law in major cities, allowing Zia to overthrow him. Though Zia presented Operation Fair Play as an unfortunate immediate response, it was proven to have been pre-mediated by him. He also gained support from the US, who blamed Bhutto for the current state of his government.

After imposing martial law in 1977, he also made himself the Chief Martial Law Administrator, promising future elections. Some major changes he made include Islamisation, the Hudood Ordinance, the trial and hanging of Bhutto, the formation of the Majlis-e-Shoora, and so much more that is beyond the context of this article.

Then on a routine flight back from Bahawalpur after witnessing a US tank demonstration, his plane crashed, killing him and 31 others. His death alone has led to countless conspiracy theories ranging from people from Zia’s military being responsible or a potential hijacking.


Mirza Aslam Baig

Date of Birth & Death Office Tenure Unit of Commission
2 August 1931 – Alive 2 years, 364 days (17 Aug 1988 – 16 Aug 1991) 16 Baloch

Following Zia Ul Haq’s sudden death and the restoration of democracy, Mirza Aslam Baig was appointed as the 3rd COAS in 1988. His pro-democracy stance was in stark contrast to President Zia who openly opposed advances in Mirza’s career. He is even believed by many to be the perpetrator behind Zia’s plane crash as soon after, he ascended to the role of Chief of Army Staff previously held by Zia.

In 2012, he was summoned by the Supreme Court of Pakistan due to his alleged funding of PPP’s oppositional political party IDA and rigging in the 1990 elections. Following in his brother’s footsteps, Baig joined the Pakistani army. He served in the 1965 second Indian war and was promoted to Lieutenant-Colonel by 1967.

When he was stationed in East Pakistan, his open-mindedness and opposition to needless violence got him sent back to West Pakistan with a threat of being court maritally. After earning his Master’s in War Studies at the then NDU, Mirza took up a professorship for a few years. When time the time came for Bhutto’s execution, the Major General objected and advised Zia against the “unwise act”.

In 1987, Prime Minister Muhammad Junejo announced that Lieutenant General Mirza Aslam Baig would be promoted to Vice Chief of Army Staff, against Zia’s wishes who distrusted Baig. Then a year later, with the help of the Chiefs of Air and Naval Staff, Beg restored the constitution and handed power to the PPP and Ghulam Ishaq Khan, all within 3 hours of Zias’s death.

Benazir presented him with the Medal of Democracy, a one-of-a-kind honor. During his tenure, he helped quell the Afghanistan civil war causing the withdrawal of the Soviet troops and lead his army against Iraq during the Gulf War. By, 1991, he was denied an extension and retired.

Asif Nawaz Junjua

Date of Birth & Death Office Tenure Unit of Commission
3 Jan 1937 – 8 Jan 1993 1 year, 145 days (16 Aug 1991 – 8 Jan 1993) 5 Punjab

After Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif refused to offer COAS Baig an extension, he was replaced by Asif Nawaz Junjua. His tenure is best described by Benazir Bhutto who said “He did what he said he would do- he kept the army out of politics.” He is widely accredited for bringing the military under civilian control and reversing other conservative changes made by his predecessor Zia Ul Haq.

Asif belonged to a military family, with his father serving as a Major in the British Indian Army. After formal training, he fought in the Indo-Pakistan wars and graduated from the Command and Staff College in Quetta and the NDU, mastering War Studies much like his predecessor Mirza Aslam Baig. His appointment as the 4th COAS wasn’t surprising, however, as, after a long military career, Junjua was the second-in-command of the Pakistani army. Among 4 potential candidates, Junjua was announced to be the new Chief of Army Staff, but he wouldn’t hold that title for long.

His short time as COAS saw him bettering relations with the US and India, as well as providing military support to areas in Karachi and Sindh where anarchy had spread following the anti-Zia Ul Haq movement. Then suddenly just 2 years into his post (1993), Asif passed from a heart attack becoming the 4th COAS to have passed in office.

Investigations into his death revealed high levels of arsenic in his blood with many pointing to the straining relationship Jinjua had with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. Though no formal investigation has been conducted into the matter, many believe his death to have been an inside-job assassination.

Abdul Waheed Kakar

Date of Birth & Death Office Tenure Unit of Commission
23 March 1937 – Alive 3 years, 1 day (11 Jan 1993 – 12 Jan 1996) 5 FF

Abdul Waheed Kakar was the 5th Chief of Army Staff of Pakistan. His selection was highly controversial and he was responsible for causing the premature end of the 1995 coup de tat. Kakar hailed from a prestigious family- his grandfather was one of the founding founders of Pakistan and even the President of the Pakistan Muslim League.

Like many COAS before him, Kakar played commanding roles in the Indo-Pakistan wars and got an education at the NDU. By 1989, he was a decorated soldier and field commander of the XII Corps. Then in 1993, the COAS Asif Nawaz Junjua passed unexpectedly and the position of the Chief of Army Staff was vacant once again. Even though Kakar soon planned on retiring, out of the potential candidates, he was selected.

His selection came to everyone’s surprise as he superseded at least 6 other army generals being the youngest among the group. It can be assumed President Ghulam specifically selected Kakar to bring the army on his side and win favor with the COAS during the Constitutional Crisis, however, Kakar would do the exact opposite.

He played a decisive role in bringing an end to the Constitutional crisis of 1993 when he secured the resignations of Ghulam Khan and Nawaz Sharif, finally holding the general elections which saw Benazir returning for her second tenure. His stance was pro-democracy and when word of a coup d’etat got to him, he immediately began operations to apprehend and capture the rogue militants. After his term had ended in 1996, he declined an extension and now he lives a peaceful life in Rawalpindi.

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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