Updated: Wed, 27 Nov 2013 14:45:00 GMT | By PTI

Pakistan names new army chief

The chief of the army staff is widely regarded as the most powerful man in the nuclear-armed nation

Pakistan names new army chief

Islamabad: Lieutenant-General Rashad Mahmood has been appointed as Pakistan's new Chairman Joint Chief of Staff Committee, while Lieutenant-General Raheel Sharif has become the new Army Chief.

Both senior military officials met Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif earlier today where the premier conveyed them the decision. The two meetings were viewed as immensely significant as they came a day before General Kayani's retirement from his post of army chief.

On November 28, the two would be promoted to the rank of four star general and at 12 pm on Nov 29, Raheel Sharif will take charge as the army chief in a change of command ceremony. Mahmood is likely to assume office after the Nov 29 ceremony.

The selection implies that frontrunner and the senior most military officer Lt Gen Haroon Aslam, currently serving as Chief of Logistic Staff, was ignored for the elevation.

The suspense over the successor to Pakistan Army's powerful chief Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani had mounted till the last moment with no names being announced even though the incumbent was to retire on Friday.

Both men have a difficult job on their hands of commanding the Army while international forces start pullout from neighbouring Afghanistan and of handling the stop-start operation/negotiation game between the Pakistani Taliban and the Nawaz Sharif government.

Other areas of concern are the Pakistan government's diplomatic dance with India, the US, China and the Gulf states, as well as thelocal security-centric initiatives, like energy efficiency and stabilising Balochistan, the Express Tribune had reported.

Even though various names and theories were floated, officials close to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who will host a farewell dinner for Kayani on Wednesday night, say the premier was said to be holding the crucial card close to his heart.

In a surprise move, 61-year-old Kayani had scotched speculation of a possible extension by issuing a statement on October 6 saying, "My tenure ends on 29th November 2013. On that day I will retire."

Kayani was hand-picked by former military ruler Gen Pervez Musharraf as the army chief in 2007. He was given an unprecedented three-year extension by then premier Yousuf Raza Gilani in 2010.

The selection of the chief of the Pakistani army, often described as the state within the state, has not been an easy task for the civilian government and especially for the once bitten, twice shy Sharif.

This would be the fourth time he would be choosing an Army Chief.

He picked up Abdul Waheed Kakar as the Army chief in 1993 but the General soon ditched him and played a key role in Sharif's resignation. Kakar had superseded at least four senior generals.

In 1998, he hand-picked Pervez Musharraf to head the Army and he too had superseded at least two Generals.

Musharraf first plotted the Kargil misadventure derailing Sharif's India-Pakistan peace dialogue in 1999 and then engineered a coup against the Prime Minister in the same year.

Sharif selected Ziauddin Butt in October 1999 but he could not take over as the Army chief due to the coup by Musharraf.

Kayani, who also served as the Director-General of the spy agency Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) and director of the Directorate-General of Military Operations, will hang his boots on Friday after being at the helm of the Army for six years.

The position of the Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee has been vacant since the retirement of Gen Khalid Shamim Wynne.

This position, though traditionally held by the Army, is actually meant to be shared on a turn-by-turn basis between the three services - the Army, the Navy and the Air Force.

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