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General Bajwa takes charge as Pakistan’s 16th army chief

Outgoing military chief Gen Raheel Sharif on Tuesday handed over the command of the army to Chief of Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa.

He passed the baton of command to Gen Bajwa at a ceremony held in the Army Hockey Stadium, close to the General Headquarters (GHQ). The command stick of the Pakistan Army is made of traditional Malacca Cane.

Gen Raheel Sharif hands over the baton of command to Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa. ─ Photo courtesy ISPR
Gen Raheel Sharif hands over the baton of command to Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa. ─ Photo courtesy ISPR
In his final speech as army chief, Gen Raheel Sharif stressed the need for institutions to work together for the nation’s progress, and cautioned India against adopting an aggressive stance in the region.

“It is important that all institutions work together against external threats and internal threats. For this, we will need to follow the National Action Plan in letter and spirit,” Gen Raheel said.

“I thank the federal government and political leadership for cooperating with us… I had the entire country’s cooperation, for which I thank the army and the nation,” he said.

Gen Raheel Sharif and Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa. ─ Photo courtesy ISPR
Gen Raheel Sharif and Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa. ─ Photo courtesy ISPR
However, he said, “Our challenges are not yet over. We have made gains over the past year. It is necessary that we never forget the sacrifices of those who lost their lives… Our journey towards peace is still underway. Our destination is not far.”

“The army will remain alert to threats, whether external or internal,” Gen Raheel said.

The outgoing army chief touched upon the subject of Indian ‘atrocities’ in India-held Kashmir (IHK). “In recent months, India’s increasing terrorism and aggressive stance in IHK have endangered the region.”

Gen Raheel Sharif reviews guard of honour.
“India should know that mistaking our policy of patience for weakness would be dangerous,” he warned.

“This is reality, that in South Asia, lasting peace and progress is impossible without solution of the Kashmir issue. For that, international community’s special attention is necessary,” he said, adding that for regional peace, all issues should be resolved politically.

The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor is a major factor in ensuring regional peace, he said.

“The departure of the first cargo from Gwadar port has shown this journey cannot be halted now,” he warned. “The time is here now that the enemies of CPEC stop working against it and become a part of it.”

Former army chief Ashfaq Pervez Kiyani attends the ceremony. — DawnNews
Former army chief Ashfaq Pervez Kiyani attends the ceremony. — DawnNews
The outgoing army chief paid tribute to those who had lost their lives for the nation and made sacrifices in the war against terrorism.

“We were able to change the face of history by fighting a war against terrorism,” Gen Raheel said.

“I have strong belief that the Pakistan Army will always deliver on the nation’s expectations.”

Minister for Defence Khawaja Asif, Adviser to the Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz, Minister of State for Information Marryam Aurangzeb, Speaker National Assembly Ayaz Sadiq and PPP leader Abdul Qadir Patel were present at the ceremony, alongside former army chief Ashfaq Pervez Kiyani.

The outgoing army chief reviewed the guard of honour upon his arrival at the venue. Prior to the ceremony, Gen Raheel laid a wreath at the Yadgar-i-Shuhada.

Who is Gen Javed Bajwa?
Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa, a career infantry officer belonging to the Baloch Regiment, was chosen as Pakistan’s next Chief of Army Staff and Gen Zubair Mahmood Hayat as the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee (CJCSC) on Saturday. Gen Bajwa will be promoted to the rank of a four-star general and will take up his new post from Tuesday, the day the current army chief Raheel Sharif retires.

Gen Bajwa was previously posted as the Inspector General for Training and Evaluation at the General Headquarters, the same post held by Gen Raheel Sharif before he took over as army chief.

Gen Bajwa was considered as a dark horse in the race for the army’s command and has now superseded Lt Gen Syed Wajid Hussain (chairman of Heavy Industries Taxila), Lt Gen Najibullah Khan (DG Joint Staff Headquarters), Lt Gen Ishfaq Nadeem Ahmed (Corps Commander Multan) and Lt Gen Javed Iqbal Ramday (Corps Commander Bahawalpur).

The succession may not immediately bring about a major change in policies, but it could still have important implications for ties with India and Afgha­nistan, and domestically for the civil-military equation and the ongoing fight against terrorism.

The army chief-designate is credited with having spent a considerable part of his military service in the Rawalpindi-based 10 Corps, which is responsible for guarding the Line of Control (LoC). However, his time at the 10 Corps was a period of relative quiet following the 2003 ceasefire accord.

This experience could prove invaluable as he takes command amidst serious escalation on the LoC, which saw some of the intense skirmishes since 2003.

On a personal level, Gen Bajwa is said to be witty, accessible, well-connected with the troops and not fond of the limelight.

He is the fourth officer from the infantry’s Baloch Regiment to become the army chief. Before him, Gen Yahya Khan, Gen Aslam Beg and Gen Kayani rose to that position.

Gen Raheel’s legacy
Back in 2013 when Gen Ashfaq Kayani announced that he would not take an extension for a second time, Gen Raheel was not among the favourites in the race for army chief.

Even after he beat all the odds to become the chief, his detractors continued to doubt him saying he lacked intelligence and operations background.

But he did not allow those shortcomings to become a handicap and proved everyone wrong.

The high point in his tenure was the start of Operation Zarb-i-Azb in North Waziristan against the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan in June 2014, something from which his predecessor shied away fearing blowback.

The operation is now in its last stages. He is also credited for action against militancy in Karachi and partially restoring calm in the city.

Gen Sharif has all along been supportive of the government, except for a statement at the corps commanders’ conference last November when he expressed reservations over civilian administration’s governance.

The comment presented the spectacle of a row between the civilian and military leadership. He has, nevertheless, maintained strong influence over the government’s foreign and national security policies.

The general garnered unprecedented popularity among the general public and on social media.

Earlier this year, mysterious banners calling on Gen Sharif to “take over” the government popped up in various cities across the country. Most recently, banners were spotted in Rawalpindi which urged him to contest the general elections in 2018. The army denied having any connection to the banners.

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