RAWALPINDI: The baton of succession, the ‘Malacca Cane’ has been passed. General Raheel Sharif on Tuesday handed over the command of Pakistan army to Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Qamar Javed Bajwa.
General Bajwa took charge as the 16th army chief of the world’s sixth-largest army by troop numbers in a formal colourful handover.
The succession ceremony where General Raheel Sharif handed over the ceremonial baton to his successor was held at the hockey stadium of General Headquarters (GHQ) in the garrison city.
Military bands played as uniformed soldiers marched at the ceremony. The event was attended by heads of the armed forces, top civil-military leadership and other local and international dignitaries.
Former army chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani and current Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee (CJCSC) General Zubair Mahmood Hayat also attended the ceremony.
General Raheel Sharif observed a guard of honour for his outstanding achievements in the war against terrorism and services for Pakistan.
General Bajwa replaced General Sharif after his three-year term ended today, a rare example of a smooth transition in a nation where army chiefs have a history of clinging to power.
Earlier today, General Sharif laid a wreath at the Yadgar-i-Shuhada while the former and new army chiefs observed another guard of honour.
“I put Pakistan first in every decision I made as the army chief of Pakistan,” said General Raheel Sharif during the ceremony.
“Army worked hard along with the officials of Rangers, FC and police to maintain peace in the country,” he said.
General Sharif while addressing at the ceremony thanked Pakistan army for having faith in him during his term.
He also lauded the entire Pakistani nation and the media for supporting him throughout his journey.
“I salute the martyrs of Pakistan armed forces and their families because our successes are incomplete without them,” said General Sharif.
“Indian aggression has put the peace of the region at stake particularly in Kashmir,” said General Sharif and insisted that “India should know that taking our policy of patience as weakness would be dangerous for itself.”
For durable peace in the region, General Sharif said, “It is important to resolve the Kashmir conflict at the earliest.”
“China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is important for regional peace and development,” said General Raheel Sharif.
He said, “Pakistan is still facing several challenges and by the grace of Allah, we will be able to face them with dignity.”
“We have to eliminate terrorism from the country,” he added and continued that the National Action Plan (NAP) should be fully implemented to achieve that goal.
“General Qamar Javed Bajwa is a strong decision-maker, who will lead the command of the Pakistan army well.”
Challenges for Bajwa
Speaking to media in an informal chat on Tuesday after the change of command ceremony, the new Army Chief General Bajwa hoped that the situation along the Line of Control (LoC) would soon improve.
Last Saturday, PM Nawaz picked General Bajwa to replace General Raheel Sharif, the popular military leader credited with improving security and driving back militant groups.
General Bajwa is expected to help reset fraught relations between the military and the civilian government in a nuclear-armed nation of 190 million people and will face vast challenges at home and abroad.
Islamic State (IS) is trying to make inroads into the country and militant groups such as the Pakistani Taliban continue to stage large-scale bomb and gun attacks.
Since August, over 180 people have been killed in three major attacks in the restive Balochistan region alone.
There are fears that if violence in Balochistan escalates it could disrupt work on the road, rail and energy projects central to the $54 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) which aims to link Western China to the Arabian Sea at deepwater port of Gwadar.
Abroad, Pakistan’s relations with the United States, a long-time ally, as well as nuclear-armed rival India, have worsened over the past year.