The incumbent, General Ashfaq Kayani, on Sunday confirmed he will step down as scheduled on November 29, scotching rumours he was to keep a hand on the reins in some new role. (Agencies)
Four lieutenant generals are seen as in the hunt to lead the 600,000-strong army -- widely considered the most powerful job in Pakistan.
Whoever is chosen will take over with Pakistan facing an array of daunting challenges both domestically and internationally -- proposed talks with homegrown militants, vexed relations with India and the role Pakistan wants to play in promoting peace in Afghanistan.
Analysts said that the new man is likely to maintain Kayani's pragmatic approach to relations with the United States and his attitude of not opposing civilian efforts to improve ties with old enemy India.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif -- whose last appointment as army chief, general Pervez Musharraf, deposed him in 1999 -- will choose the new chief from a shortlist prepared by Kayani, who was appointed in 2007 and given an extension in 2010.
The highest-ranking contender is Lieutenant General Haroon Aslam, currently the chief of logistics staff. Aslam took part in army operations against the Taliban in the northwestern district of Swat in 2009 and served as chief of the paramilitary Rangers in central Punjab province.
Behind Aslam in rank but seen by some commentators as favourite for the job, particularly if Aslam is made chairman of the joint chiefs of staff committee, is Lieutenant General Rashad Mehmood, currently chief of general staff at the army's General Headquarters.
The other main runners are Lieutenant General Raheel Sharif, whose elder brother won Pakistan's highest military award for valour in the 1971 war with India, and Lieutenant General Tariq Khan, who has taken part in successful counter-insurgency operations and has earned a reputation as an excellent field commander.
The May general election marked a major landmark for Pakistani democracy -- which has been punctuated by three military coups -- as the first time an elected government completed its term and handed over power through the ballot box.
The incumbent, General Ashfaq Kayani, on Sunday confirmed he will step down as scheduled on November 29, scotching rumours he was to keep a hand on the reins in some new role.