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

This US Epidemic Keeps Getting Worse

One in 4 Americans suffers from this condition More

How to Safeguard Your Mobile Privacy

As the digital world becomes more mobile, so too do concerns about eroding privacy and increased hacking More

'Desert Dancer' Chronicles Iranian Underground Dance Troupe

Film by Richard Raymond is based on true story of Afshin Ghaffarian and his friends More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thoughti
X
George Putic
May 26, 2015 9:26 PM
Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video US-led Coalition Gives Some Weapons to Iraqi Troops

In a video released Tuesday from the Iraqi Ministry of Defense, Iraqi forces and U.S.-led coalition troops survey a cache of weapons supplied to help Iraq liberate Mosul from Islamic State group. According to a statement provided with the video, the ministry and the U.S.-led coaltion troops have started ''supplying the 16th army division with medium and light weapons in preparation to liberate Mosul and nearby areas from Da'esh (Arabic acronym for Islamic State group).''
Video

Video Amnesty International: 'Overwhelming Evidence' of War Crimes in Ukraine

Human rights group Amnesty International says there is overwhelming evidence of ongoing war crimes in Ukraine, despite a tentative cease-fire with pro-Russian rebels. Researchers interviewed more than 30 prisoners from both sides of the conflict and all but one said they were tortured. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Washington Parade Honors Those Killed Serving in US Military

Every year, on the last Monday in the month of May, millions of Americans honor the memories of those killed while serving in the armed forces. Memorial Day is a tradition that dates back to the 19th Century. While many people celebrate the federal holiday with a barbecue and a day off from work, for those who’ve served in the military, it’s a special day to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice. Arash Arabasadi reports for VOA from Washington.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.
Video

Video Rolling Thunder Run Reveals Changed Attitudes Towards Vietnam War

For many US war veterans, the Memorial Day holiday is an opportunity to look back at a divisive conflict in the nation’s history and to remember those who did not make it home.
Video

Video Female American Soldiers: Healing Through Filmmaking

According to the United States Defense Department, there are more than 200-thousand women serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.  Like their male counterparts, females have experiences that can be very traumatic.  VOA's Bernard Shusman tells us about a program that is helping some American women in the military heal through filmmaking.
Video

Video Iowa Family's Sacrifice Shaped US Military Service for Generations

Few places in America have experienced war like Waterloo. This small town in the Midwest state of Iowa became famous during World War II not for what it accomplished, but what it lost. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the legacy of one family’s sacrifice is still a reminder today of the real cost of war for all families on the homefront.
Video

Video On Film: How Dance Defies Iran's Political Oppression

'Desert Dancer' by filmmaker Richard Raymond is based on the true story of a group of young Iranians, who form an underground dance troupe in the Islamic Republic of Iran. This is the latest in a genre of films that focus on dance as a form of freedom of expression against political oppression and social injustice. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Turkey's Ruling Party Trying to Lure Voters in Opposition Stronghold

Turkey’s AK (Justice and Development) Party is seeking a fourth successive general election victory, with the goal of securing two-thirds of the seats in Parliament to rewrite the constitution and change the country's parliamentary system into a presidential one. To achieve that, the party will need to win seats in opposition strongholds like the western city of Izmir. Dorian Jones reports.
Video

Video Millions Flock to Ethiopia Polls

Millions of Ethiopians cast their votes Sunday in the first national election since the 2012 death of longtime leader Meles Zenawi. Mr. Meles' party, the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front, is almost certain of victory again. VOA's Anita Powell reports from Addis Ababa.

VOA Blogs