ISLAMABAD: Outgoing Army Chief General Raheel Sharif on Monday paid farewell visits to President Mamnoon Hussain and Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif at their official residences in the capital, said Radio Pakistan.
“The Prime Minister praised General Raheel Sharif for his valuable services rendered as army chief and extended his best wishes for his post-retirement life and happiness for his family,” a PM’s Office statement said.
Both the leaders lauded General Sharif’s outstanding achievements for Pakistan and its security particularly for effectively initiating and conducting the famous ‘Operation Zarb-e-Azb’ in the tribal areas.
General Sharif also visited Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) headquarters on Monday and met Director General (DG) ISI Lieutenant General Rizwan Akhtar.
During the meet, COAS praised the services and sacrifices of ISI and its officials in the war against terrorism.
Later General Raheel Sharif also presided over a farewell meeting of Corps Commanders Conference at the General Headquarters (GHQ) Rawalpindi.
“I feel very proud to serve Pakistan army for three years,” said General Sharif during the conference and insisted, that “successes against terrorism were not possible without the cooperation of the Corps Commanders.”
Pakistan grateful to General Sharif
General Raheel Sharif, 60, 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.
He now becomes the first army chief in over 20 years to step down on time. Several previous military leaders had obtained extensions to their three-year terms.
Security across Pakistan has vastly improved under General Sharif, with a number of reported ‘terrorist’ attacks down.
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.
General Bajwa named new COAS
PM Nawaz on Saturday picked Lieutenant General Qamar Javed Bajwa to replace outgoing Army Chief Raheel Sharif, the popular military leader credited with improving security and driving back Islamist militant groups.
General Bajwa would take charge of the world’s sixth-largest army by troop numbers in a formal handover on Tuesday, when General Sharif, who is no relation to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, formally retires.
The appointment of 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.
Must Read: Who is Lieutenant General Qamar Javed Bajwa?
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.
GHQ prepares to bring ‘new chief’
Rehearsal for the change of command to bring new Chief of the Army Staff (COAS) was in full swing at the General Headquarters (GHQ), according to the Director General Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR) Lieutenant General Asim Saleem Bajwa.
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 GHQ during morning hours on Tuesday.
— Gen Asim Bajwa (@AsimBajwaISPR) November 27, 2016
The ceremony will be attended by heads of the armed forces, civil-military leadership and other local and international dignitaries.
Lieutenant General Qamar Javed Bajwa will replace retiring Army Chief General Raheel Sharif after his three-year term ends tomorrow, a rare example of a smooth transition in a nation where army chiefs have a history of clinging to power.
The succession on Tuesday will also be closely watched overseas.