LoC veteran takes over as Pakistan army chief
DARK HORSE Lt Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa surprise pick to replace Gen Sharif
Lt Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa, seen as a dark horse in the race for the post of Pakistan Army chief and considered to have extensive experience of affairs in Kashmir, emerged on Saturday as the successor to Gen Raheel Sharif.
Bajwa, a career infantry officer from the Baloch Regiment, will take over when Gen Sharif retires on November 29, the Pakistani media reported. Besides Bajwa, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif chose Lt Gen Zubair Hayat as the next chairman of the joint chiefs of staff committee, the reports said.
Much of the speculation about the next army chief centred round Hayat and Lt Gen Ishfaq Nadeem Ahmed, and Bajwa wasn’t seen as a frontrunner.
Prime Minister Sharif finalised the names of the two generals on Saturday and an official notification was expected shortly.
Sources in Islamabad said the debate in recent weeks within the Pakistan Army’s hierarchy was whether the next chief should be a general well versed with counter-insurgency operations or someone who could strike a balance between the drive against militant groups and countering India following the spike in tensions on the Line of Control.
With some sections of the military leadership believing that Operation Zarb-e-Azb, the counter-insurgency drive initiated by Gen Sharif, was winding down, Bajwa was perceived as the right fit given his expertise in Kashmir and along the LoC, the sources told HT.
Despite its recent focus on counter-insurgency operations, the Pakistan Army remains – as former army chief Ashfaq Kayani once put it – an “Indiacentric” force that exercises immense influence on foreign and security policies.
For the political establishment, Bajwa was seen as a better candidate as he is believed to be one of the generals who counselled against any adventurism by the army during the 2014 dharna by opposition leaders Imran Khan and Tahir-ulQadri. That protest had considerably weakened PM Sharif ’s PML-N government.