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

US Investors Eye IPO for China's Alibaba

E-commerce giant handled 80 percent of China's online business last year, logging more Internet transactions than US-based Amazon.com and eBay combined More

Video Uneasy Calm Settles Over Israel, Gaza Strip

As cease-fire begins, Palestinians celebrate in streets; Israelis remain wary More

Video Chinese Doctors Use 3-D Spinal Implant

In treatment of a 12-year-old boy Chinese doctors used a 3-D printer and special software to create an exact replica of vertebra More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Chinese Doctors Use 3-D Spinal Implanti
X
August 27, 2014 4:53 PM
A Chinese boy suffering from a debilitating bone disease has become the first patient with a part of his spine created in a three-dimensional printer. Doctors say he will soon regain normal mobility. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Chinese Doctors Use 3-D Spinal Implant

A Chinese boy suffering from a debilitating bone disease has become the first patient with a part of his spine created in a three-dimensional printer. Doctors say he will soon regain normal mobility. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Uneasy Calm Settles Over Israel, Gaza Strip

Israel and the Gaza Strip have been calm since a cease-fire set in Tuesday evening, ending seven weeks of hostilities. Hamas, which controls Gaza, declared victory. Israelis were more wart. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jerusalem.
Video

Video India’s Leprosy Battle Stymied by Continuing Stigma

Medical advancements in the treatment of leprosy have greatly diminished its impact around the world, largely eliminating the disease from most countries. India made great strides in combating leprosy, but still accounts for a majority of the world’s new cases each year, and the number of newly infected Indians is rising - more than 130,000 recorded last year. Doctors there say the problem has more to do with society than science. VOA News reports from Kolkata.
Video

Video Northern California Quake: No Way to Know When Next One Will Hit

A magnitude 6.0 earthquake rocked northern California’s Napa Valley on Sunday. Roads twisted and water mains burst. It was the wine country’s most severe quake in 15 years, and while hospitals treated many people, no one was killed. Arash Arabasadi has more from Washington on what the future may hold for those residents living on a fault line.
Video

Video Scientists Unlock Mystery of Bird Flocks

How can flocks of birds, schools of fish or herds of antelope suddenly change direction -- all the individuals adjusting their movement in concert, at seemingly the same time? British researchers now have some insights into this behavior, which has puzzled scientists for a long time. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video Ukraine: Captured Troops Proof of Russian Role in Separatist Fight

Ukrainian officials say they have captured Russian soldiers on Ukrainian territory -- the latest accusation of Moscow's involvement in the conflict in eastern Ukraine. VOA's Gabe Joselow reports from the Ukrainian side of the battle, where soldiers are convinced of Russia's role.
Video

Video Rubber May Soon Come From Dandelions

Synthetic rubber has been around for more than a century, but quality tires for cars, trucks and aircraft still need up to 40 percent or more natural rubber content. As the source of natural rubber, the rubber tree, is prone to disease and can be affected by bad weather. So scientists are looking for replacements. And as VOA’s George Putic reports, they may have found one in a ubiquitous weed.
Video

Video Jewish Life in Argentina Reflected in Yiddish Tango

Jewish people from across Europe and Russia have been immigrating to Argentina for hundreds of years. They brought with them dance music that were eventually mixed with Argentine tango. The result is Yiddish tango -- a fusion of melodies and cultural experiences that is still evolving today. Elizabeth Lee reports from the Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles, where one band is bringing Yiddish tango to an American audience.

AppleAndroid