Lieutenant General Qamar Javed Bajwa would take charge of the world’s sixth-largest army by troop numbers in a formal handover on Tuesday when General Raheel Sharif formally passes on the baton of succession.
Upon his arrival at the venue, General Sharif laid a wreath at the Yadgar-i-Shuhada while both the outgoing and incoming army chiefs observed a guard of honour at the ceremony.
The succession ceremony where COAS General Raheel Sharif will hand over the ceremonial baton to his successor is being held at the hockey stadium of GHQ. The event is being attended by heads of the armed forces, top civil-military leadership and other local and international dignitaries. Lieutenant General Bajwa will replace retiring General Sharif after his three-year term ends today, a rare example of a smooth transition in a nation where army chiefs have a history of clinging to power. Last Saturday PM Nawaz picked Lieutenant General Bajwa to replace the outgoing Army Chief General Raheel Sharif, the popular military leader credited with improving security and driving back militant groups.
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. 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.
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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. General 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. 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). 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.” -ary