LoC veteran takes over as Pak­istan army chief

DARK HORSE Lt Gen Qa­mar Javed Ba­jwa sur­prise pick to re­place Gen Sharif

Hindustan Times ST (Mumbai) - HT Navi Mumbai Live - - FRONT PAGE - Im­tiaz Ah­mad and Rezaul H Laskar let­ters@hin­dus­tan­times.com

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.

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