Lt Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa is Pakistan's new army chief

Islamabad, Islamabad Capital Territory, PakistanUpdated: Nov 26, 2016, 04:47 PM IST
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File photo. Photograph:(Facebook)

By Taha Siddiqui

Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif appointed Lieutenant General Qamar Javed Bajwa as the Chief of Army Staff (COA) on Saturday. 

Khwaja Asif, the federal minister for defence confirmed the development. “Two lieutenant generals were promoted as four star generals, as per the advisory from the prime minister,” he informed local media. 

The other is Lieutenant General Zubair Hayat who has been appointed as Chairman Joint Chief of Staff Committee (CJCSC). A formal notification in this regard was issued by the Prime Minister House late on Saturday night. 

The new army chief will take charge on November 29 when General Raheel Sharif is set to retire. The ceremony will take place at the military headquarters in Rawalpindi. 

Lieutenant General Bajwa was commissioned in 16 Baloch Regiment on October 24, 1980. He is a graduate of Canadian Forces Command and Staff College, in Toronto, Canada. 

He also attended Naval Post Graduate University in Monterey, California, USA, and National Defence University in Islamabad.

He was an instructor at School of Infantry and Tactics at Quetta Command and Staff College and at National Defence University. 

He was the Brigade Major of an Infantry Brigade and Chief of Staff of Rawalpindi Corps. He commanded 16 Baloch Regiment, an Infantry Brigade and has commanded Infantry Division in Northern Areas. 

He has commanded a Pakistan Contingent in Congo and was Corp Commander Rawalpindi. Currently, Bajwa holds the post of Inspector General Training and Evaluation at General Headquarters, a position his predecessor General Sharif was also commanding before his elevation to the army chief in 2013.

General Raheel Sharif is set to leave a legacy behind, in terms of turning the image of the military around with an aggressive public relations campaign.

He also undertook major military operations that the previous army chiefs were reluctant to undertake, like the North Waziristan operation in 2014, following which Pakistan has seen a relative calm.

In recent months, however, terror outfits have once again struck in different parts of country, which reflects that the military has not been completely successful at eradicating militant groups operating in Pakistan.

Some have pointed fingers at the fact that while General Sharif promised zero-tolerance for militancy, some militants groups continue to operate freely, with the authorities letting them be. 

Also, under General Sharif, the military continued to wield influence in important policy-making areas, especially with regards to foreign and domestic security policy, and ensured that the civil-military imbalance continued to favour the army. For this reason, some in Pakistan say that the prime minister of the country has a peculiar task when it comes to selecting army chiefs, in the sense of choosing his own boss.

General Bajwa takes command of the Pakistan army at a time when tensions with India are at a peak after claims by Indian Army of a surgical strike inside Pakistan-administered Kashmir. The Pakistan Army has rejected the claim.

Following this, cross border firing has intensified, especially on the Line of Control between Pakistan and Indian Kashmir, with both sides claiming the other of violating the ceasefire agreement of 2004.

 Owing to such recent tensions,observers say his main focus will be Pakistan’s relations with India, and given the history – the military is known to be not in favour of improving ties with India, as it gives them the relevance they need in Pakistan to continue being in the driving seat, when it comes to policy-making.