COAS has been immensely popular among ordinary Pakistanis

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The General Raheel Sharif has been immensely popular among ordinary Pakistanis, who see him as having effectively tackled crime and corruption.

Sharif, who is due to retire on November 29, had never said he would seek an extension, but speculation of such a move has recently been rife in the media and among politicians.

The army has ruled Pakistan for roughly half its 69-year history, and tension with civilian governments – including that of current Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif – often runs high.

Sharif himself was ousted from power in 1999 by a military coup. Pakistan’s last two army chiefs, including Pervez Musharraf, who led the coup against Sharif, were both given extensions.

Prime Minister Sharif has until November 28 to name his choice of a replacement for the retiring army chief. Typically, the military provides the prime minister the dossiers of three or four contenders from which to choose.

Contenders this year incorporate Lieutenant General Javed Iqbal Ramday, Lieutenant General Zubair Hayat, Lieutenant General Ishfaq Nadeem Ahmad and Lieutenant General Qamar Javed Bajwa, three of the PM's associates told Reuters in September