Pakistan appoints new army chief

Nawaz Sharif_Javed Bajwa

Pakistan appoints new army chief

Unlike his former bosses, Pakistan's Army Chief Raheel Sharif will hand over charge peacefully to his successor Lt. Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa when his term expires on Tuesday.

The military has been in charge of Pakistan for more than half of its almost 70-year history. Lieutenant General Bajwa has served with a United Nations mission in Congo as a Brigade Commander, alongside former Indian Army Chief General Bikram Singh, who was also there as a Division Commander.

Another leading daily, Dawn said, "Gen. Bajwa's relatively more moderate view of the relationship with the civilian government, it is said, proved to be the decisive factor in Prime Minister Sharif's decision".

It was in the aftermath of the 2014 protests that the Army stepped in and seized nearly complete control over Pakistan's foreign policy, refusing to cede any space to the Nawaz Sharif government, especially vis-à-vis India.

The "hawks" in the military would have wanted Gen Hayat - who instead was made chairman of the joint chiefs of staff - or Lt Gen Nadeem, she said.

These days, after deadly border incidents in Kashmir that have brought relations between the neighboring nuclear powers to their worst point in years, the mild-mannered premier has scrambled to sound as tough on India as Gen. Sharif, who vowed to "defend every inch of our beloved country" after India claimed it had launched a "surgical strike" on Pakistan in September. He returned as X Corps Commander from 2013 to 2015 and is, therefore, very familiar with Pakistan's policy towards India. Bajwa is an infantry officer, who belongs to the Baloch Regiment. Before him, Gen. Yahya Khan, Gen. Aslam Beg and Gen. Kayani rose to that position.

Addressing tribal elders after inaugurating a cricket stadium named after flamboyant cricketer Shahid Afridi in Khyber tribal region, the General confirmed he will be retiring on November 29 after a three-year term, as scheduled.

After their final official dinner together on Thursday, Prime Minister Sharif praised the departing general.

Of the five contenders for the top military post, Qamar Javed Bajwa stood at the fourth number in the seniority list.

Pakistan has shown utmost restraint in the face of Indian belligerence and will not tolerate India's "deliberate targeting" of civilians and ambulances, Nawaz Sharif was quoted as saying in a statement from the Prime Minister's House. The reshuffle comes at a sensitive time when Pakistan's relations with India are near an all-time low. Experts said ¬Bajwa has solid genius majority rule government sees and may be more open to non-military personnel contribution in outside and security arrangement than past armed force boss. However, Lieutenant General Hayat, described as a hard working and a keen reader, has not served in any conflict zone.

Meanwhile, General Zubair Mahmood Hayat has been appointed Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee (CJCSC).

Later, the army chief designate called on the prime minister and discussed various issues with him. "He is more reserved than his predecessor and that will help make the situation more harmonious with the government".

The seniority list has nearly never been strictly followed in appointing army chiefs.

But in many ways, the fact that Gen. Sharif was bowing out on time - and will pass his bamboo swagger stick to Bajwa in a formal military ceremony on Wednesday - mattered even more. "The military policy will continue and there will be no immediate change in it", Asif told a private TV channel.

"In the long run, General Sharif will be remembered for escalating the war against anti-state terrorists that had been emboldened by nearly a decade of Pakistani passivity", Mr. Zaidi said.

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