RAWALPINDI: Arrangements to welcome new army chief begins in the garrison city after Chief of the Army Staff (COAS) General Raheel Sharif began a round of farewell visits on Monday, damping speculation he might receive an extension when his three-year term ends this month.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had named the then Lieutenant-General Raheel Sharif, brother of a war hero, on November 27, 2013, to take charge of the world’s sixth-largest army, with a formal handover from General Ashfaq Kayani.
The general has been immensely popular among ordinary Pakistanis, who see him as having effectively tackled crime and corruption, besides carrying the fight against terrorism to unstable tribal areas.
COAS Sharif always considered the militant threat inside Pakistan as important as the strategic tussle with India.
The army chief received his military commission in 1976 and studied military leadership in Germany, Canada and Britain. He commanded several infantry units, including the Sixth Frontier Force Regiment along the disputed Line of Control (LoC) in Kashmir.
His brother, Major Shabbir Sharif, received two of the country’s highest military awards for his action during the 1971 India-Pakistan war in which he was killed.
Ceremony at GHQ
A succession ceremony where COAS General Raheel Sharif will hand over the ceremonial baton to his successor will be held at the hockey stadium of the General Headquarters (GHQ) during morning hours on 29th.
The ceremony will be attended by heads of the armed forces, civil-military leadership and other local and international dignitaries.
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 with the dossiers of three or four contenders from which to choose.
Contenders this year include Lieutenant General Javed Iqbal Ramday, Lieutenant General Zubair Hayat, Lieutenant General Ishfaq Nadeem Ahmad and Lieutenant General Qamar Javed Bajwa.
The succession will also be closely watched overseas.
PM to make a pick
As the countdown to a new army chief begins, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has convened a federal cabinet meeting on Wednesday to decide upon the new face of the Pakistan’s powerful military.
The high-level meeting tomorrow will deliberate on the key choices the government has regarding who will run the armed forces, one that will have a major influence on the country’s often strained relationships with the United States (US) and nuclear rival India.
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 as a result of a military coup. Pakistan’s last two army chiefs, including Pervez Musharraf, who led the coup against Sharif, were both given extensions.