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New Pakistani Army Chief Chosen

  • RFE/RL's Radio Mashaal

Lieutenant General Raheel Sharif

Lieutenant General Raheel Sharif

Pakistan has appointed Lieutenant General Raheel Sharif as its next army chief, one of the most powerful positions in the nuclear-armed nation.

Army spokesman Asim Bajwal confirmed the appointment in a Twitter message on November 27.

Sharif will replace General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, who will step down after six years at the helm.

Officials said Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif also named Lieutenant General Rashid Mahmood as the new chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee, a body that oversees the army, navy, and air force.

President Mamnoon Hussain has reportedly approved the decision, but an official announcement has yet to be made.

Internal Battle

The two posts are seen as crucial in the battle against the Islamist militants inside Pakistan.

Retired Pakistani Army General Talat Masood told RFE/RL that he thought Sharif is a "good choice" to lead the military.

"He has had a very good experience throughout his military career and he has held some very important positions both in the command and staff. And [he is] well-rated and well-respected in the military community," Masood said.

"So I think from that perspective he is very suitable. He has also experience in counterinsurgency and he was very much interested in improving his doctrine and so on."

The change of command comes at a time of numerous challenges for Pakistan. They include the war on terrorism in Pakistan, the winding down of the NATO-led mission in neighboring Afghanistan, and continued tension with arch-rival India over disputed Kashmir.

Before his elevation to the top military post, Sharif most recently served as the head of the army's training and evaluation wing, overseeing the training of Pakistan’s 600,000-strong army. His prior appointments include commandant of the prestigious Pakistan Military Academy.

Sharif's brother was one of the army's most decorated soldiers and was killed in the 1971 war with India.

The new army chief is expected to continue his predecessor's policies, including avoiding overt meddling in politics.

Relations between civilian governments and the powerful military have always been tricky in Pakistan, which the military has ruled for more than half of its 65-year history through numerous coups.

With reporting by AFP, Reuters, and