News / Asia

Pakistan Names Army Chief Successor

Pakistan's Lieutenant-General Raheel Sharif attends a military exercise in Khairpure Tamay Wali in Bahawalpur district, Nov. 4, 2013.
Pakistan's Lieutenant-General Raheel Sharif attends a military exercise in Khairpure Tamay Wali in Bahawalpur district, Nov. 4, 2013.
Ayaz Gul
Pakistan’s prime minister has named a replacement for army chief General Ashfaq Kayani, ending weeks of media speculation and anxiety within the country prompted by an unprecedented delay in the announcement. 

The prime minister’s office, in a brief statement, said that General Raheel Sharif has been promoted and appointed as the new Chief of Army Staff, the most powerful post in Pakistan.

The new commander, who is not related to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, will take charge of the world’s sixth largest military on Friday when its incumbent chief, General Ashfaq Pervez Kayani, retires.

Wednesday’s announcement came as Pakistan faces an increasingly violent insurgency by Islamist militants, commonly referred to as the Pakistani Taliban. The army has conducted major operations to uproot bases of these extremists, who are mainly entrenched in the northwestern tribal belt near the Afghan border.

The 57-year-old General Sharif is a career infantry officer and is said to have played a key role in reshaping the army’s counterterrorism strategy.

Former general Athar Abbas, who was the army spokesman before retiring early last year, told VOA he does not foresee any major policy shift under the new leadership in terms of dealing with domestic or external threats facing Pakistan.

“Since everybody remains on board, there is a great discussion, debate before adopting or taking such policy decisions, so, therefore most likely the policy continues with minor or insignificant changes here and there [because] major policy decisions have been taken [and] there is unlikelihood of these getting changed,” Abbas stated.

It is a tradition in Pakistan that the name of the new army chief is officially known a couple of months before he assumes the post.  However, this time Prime Minister Sharif made the announcement just days before the incumbent army chief retires.

While there is no official explanation for the delay, observers believe the prime minister took time apparently to avoid repetition of the events of 1999, when his hand-picked army chief at the time, General Pervez Musharraf, ousted Sharif’s elected government in a bloodless military coup.

Some analysts are of the view that army chiefs in Pakistan do not do the bidding of the civilian leadership but are driven by their institution first.  Former army spokesman Abbas said that any delay in making such sensitive appointments undermines morale of the armed forces.

“I think it would have been better had they announced about two months back so that the new army chief was in a better position to take a stock of the situation, take his commanders in confidence, I mean a very clear sight of the challenges that are likely to be faced," said Abbas. "Yes, there was an anxiety in the army and since it was delayed unnecessarily so therefore it really gave birth to a lot of speculations.”

While NATO forces are reducing their presence in neighboring Afghanistan, there is no letup in the Taliban-led insurgency.  Abbas said the continued instability on the Afghan side of the mostly porous border remains a major challenge to Pakistan’s gains in counterterrorism.  He says that in addition to dealing with the internal insurgency, the new military chief will also need to better coordinate efforts with international forces in Afghanistan.

“This remains a great challenge because the situation in Afghanistan is likely to have great impact on this side of the border, and the army chief in the past was intensely involved along with the government, with the [Afghan] reconciliation [process], dealing with the ISAF officials and Afghan officials. So, this will become a great challenge for the new military chief,” noted Abbas.

Pakistan's military is accused of maintaining ties with the Afghan Taliban, and Islamabad's role in bringing leaders of the insurgency to the table for peace talks with the Kabul government is considered vital.

Pakistan’s military tensions with rival India over the disputed Kashmir region have also been running high in recent weeks, posing another major challenge for the new army chief to deal with. General Sharif's brother was one of the army’s most decorated soldiers and was killed in the 1971 war with India.

Pakistan has experienced several military coups since its creation in 1947 and the army continues to influence the country’s key foreign policy matters. The army’s alleged links to militant groups active both in Afghanistan and Indian Kashmir have long been a source of domestic and international criticism.

You May Like

Taliban's New Leader Says Jihad Will Continue

Top US Afghan diplomat also meets with Pakistani, Afghan officials following news of Mullah Omar's death More

Video US Landmark Pushes Endangered Species

People gathered in streets, on rooftops in Manhattan to see image highlights that covered 33 floors of Empire State Building More

World’s Widest Suspension Bridge Being Built Over Bosphorus

Once built, Yavuz Sultan Selim Bridge will span 2 kilometers with about 1.5 kilometers over water, and will be longest suspension bridge in world carrying rail system More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Astronauts Train Underwater for Deep Space Missionsi
|| 0:00:00
...    
🔇
X
George Putic
July 30, 2015 8:59 PM
Manned deep space missions are still a long way off, but space agencies are already testing procedures, equipment and human stamina for operations in extreme environment conditions. Small groups of astronauts take turns in spending days in an underwater lab, off Florida’s southern coast, simulating future missions to some remote world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Astronauts Train Underwater for Deep Space Missions

Manned deep space missions are still a long way off, but space agencies are already testing procedures, equipment and human stamina for operations in extreme environment conditions. Small groups of astronauts take turns in spending days in an underwater lab, off Florida’s southern coast, simulating future missions to some remote world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Civil Rights Leaders Struggled to Achieve Voting Rights Act

Fifty years ago, lawmakers approved, and U.S. President Lyndon Johnson signed, the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The measure outlawed racial discrimination in voting, giving millions of blacks in many parts of the southern United States federal enforcement of the right to vote. Correspondent Chris Simkins introduces us to some civil rights leaders who were on the front lines in the struggle for voting rights.
Video

Video Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’

Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Hometown of Boy Scouts of America Founder Reacts to Gay Leader Decision

Ottawa, Illinois, is the hometown of W.D. Boyce, who founded the Boy Scouts of America in 1910. In Ottawa, where Scouting remains an important part of the legacy of the community, the end of the organization's ban on openly gay adult leaders was seen as inevitable. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video 'Metal Muscles' Flex a New Bionic Hand

Artificial limbs, including the most complex of them – the human hand – are getting more life-like and useful due to constant advances in tiny hydraulic, pneumatic and electric motors called actuators. But now, as VOA’s George Putic reports, scientists in Germany say the future of the prosthetic hand may lie not in motors but in wires that can ‘remember’ their shape.
Video

Video Russia Accused of Abusing Interpol to Pursue Opponents

A British pro-democracy group has accused Russia of abusing the global law enforcement agency Interpol by requesting the arrest and extradition of political opponents. A new report by the group notes such requests can mean the accused are unable to travel and are often unable to open bank accounts. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video 'Positive Atmosphere' Points Toward TPP Trade Deal in Hawaii

Talks on a major new trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations are said to be nearing completion in Hawaii. Some trade experts say the "positive atmosphere" at the discussions could mean a deal is within reach, but there is still hard bargaining to be done over many issues and products, including U.S. drugs and Japanese rice. VOA's Jim Randle reports.
Video

Video Genome Initiative Urgently Moves to Freeze DNA Before Species Go Extinct

Earth is in the midst of its sixth mass extinction. The last such event was caused by an asteroid 66 million years ago. It killed off the dinosaurs and practically everything else. So scientists are in a race against time to classify the estimated 11 million species alive today. So far only 2 million are described by science, and researchers are worried many will disappear before they even have a name. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Scientists: One-Dose Malaria Cure is Possible

Scientists have long been trying to develop an effective protection and cure for malaria - one of the deadliest diseases that affects people in tropical areas, especially children. As the World Health Organization announces plans to begin clinical trials of a promising new vaccine, scientists in South Africa report that they too are at an important threshold. George Putic reports, they are testing a compound that could be a single-dose cure for malaria.
Video

Video 'New York' Magazine Features 35 Cosby Accusers

The latest issue of 'New York' magazine features 35 women who say they were drugged and raped by film and television celebrity Bill Cosby. The women are aged from 44 to 80 and come from different walks of life and races. The magazine interviewed each of them separately, but Zlatica Hoke reports their stories are similar.
Video

Video US Calls Fight Against Human Trafficking a Must Win

The United States is promising not to give up its fight against what Secretary of State John Kerry calls the “scourge” of modern slavery. Officials released the country’s annual human trafficking report Monday – a report that’s being met with some criticism. VOA’s National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more from the State Department.
Video

Video Washington DC Underground Streetcar Station to Become Arts Venue

Abandoned more than 50 years ago, the underground streetcar station in Washington D.C.’s historic DuPont Circle district is about to be reborn. The plan calls for turning the spacious underground platforms - once meant to be a transportation hub, - into a unique space for art exhibitions, presentations, concerts and even a film set. Roman Mamonov has more from beneath the streets of the U.S. capital. Joy Wagner narrates his report.
Video

Video Europe’s Twin Crises Collide in Greece as Migrant Numbers Soar

Greece has replaced Italy as the main gateway for migrants into Europe, with more than 100,000 arrivals in the first six months of 2015. Many want to move further into Europe and escape Greece’s economic crisis, but they face widespread dangers on the journey overland through the Balkans. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Stink Intensifies as Lebanon’s Trash Crisis Continues

After the closure of a major rubbish dump a week ago, the streets of Beirut are filling up with trash. Having failed to draw up a plan B, politicians are struggling to deal with the problem. John Owens has more for VOA from Beirut.
Video

Video Paris Rolls Out Blueprint to Fight Climate Change

A U.N. climate conference in December aims to produce an ambitious agreement to fight heat-trapping greenhouse gases. But many local governments are not waiting, and have drafted their own climate action plans. That’s the case with Paris — which is getting special attention, since it’s hosting the climate summit. Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at the transformation of the French capital into an eco-city.

VOA Blogs