Qamar Javed Bajwa: A low-key leader who spent time commanding infantry divisions

Lieutenant General Qamar Javed Bajwa will likely take charge of the world's sixth-largest army by troop numbers in a formal handover on Tuesday, when General Sharif, formally retires.

By: Reuters | Islamabad | Updated: November 27, 2016 7:30 am
Pakistan News, Pakistan army chief, New Paksitan army chief, latest news, International news, Lieutenant General Qamar Javed Bajwa, army chief Raheel Sharif, latest news, India news, world news PM Nawaz Sharif has selected Lieutenant General Qamar Javed Bajwa to replace the incumbent Army Chief General Raheel Sharif. (Source: Dawn news)

Pakistan’s prime minister on Saturday picked Lieutenant General Qamar Javed Bajwa to replace outgoing army chief Raheel Sharif, the popular military leader credited with improving security and driving back Islamist militant groups. The army chief is arguably the most influential person in Pakistan, with the military having ruled the country for about half of its 69-year history since independence from Britain and enjoying extensive powers even under civilian administrations.

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General Bajwa will likely take charge of the world’s sixth-largest army by troop numbers in a formal handover on Tuesday, when General Sharif, who is no relation to prime minister Nawaz Sharif, formally retires.

The appointment of Bajwa is expected to help reset fraught relations between the military and the civilian government in a nuclear-armed nation of 190 million people. Lieutenant General Zubair Hayat has been appointed chairman of the joint chiefs of staff committee.

General Sharif, 60, becomes the first army chief in more than 20 years to step down on time. Several previous military leaders had obtained extensions to their three-year terms.

LOW-KEY STYLE

Little is publicly known about Bajwa, who has been heading the army’s Training and Evaluation Wing. It is also not clear how he would approach sensitive issues such as military-civilian relations or his ideological stance towards India.

The military, in a statement, only sent out a brief army history of Bajwa, who was commissioned in 1980 and was partly educated abroad, including staff college training in Canada and naval post-graduate studies in the United States.

Bajwa had also served abroad, commanding the Pakistan Contingent in Congo, and had spent time commanding infantry divisions. One cabinet minister told Reuters that Prime Minister Sharif picked Bajwa because of his low-key style, and felt the incoming general would be more willing to cede control of key areas to the civilian government.

“He is essentially a very low-profile person and after our last experience (with General Sharif) this is just a very important consideration; someone who doesn’t want the limelight at all,” said the minister, asking not to be named because of the sensitivity of the issue.

“FINEST MILITARY LEADER”

When Prime Minister Sharif chose his namesake as army chief in 2013, it was because the general was the most apolitical figure among the candidates, sources close to the premier said at the time.

But once appointed, General Sharif maintained the army’s strong influence within Pakistani politics. Though he did not overtly meddle and rarely made public political statements, he was seen as a key player in behind-the-scene decision making.

Analysts say the political tussle is likely to occur again with the new chief, saying that all military leaders have ended up challenging the prime minister’s authority in some way once they began to represent the interests of the army.

General Sharif, who hails from a military family, built a huge following among ordinary Pakistanis who saw him as a protector against Islamists, corruption and foreign aggression.

His popularity came on the back of the military operation Zarb-i-Azb, which drove back Pakistani Taliban militants from their tribal strongholds and improved security. An army-led crackdown in Karachi also drastically reduced crime in the country’s biggest city.

But General Sharif’s popularity, enhanced by the army’s slick media unit, also unnerved members of the ruling PML-N party who were suspicious of efforts to glorify the army chief.

After their final official dinner together on Thursday, Prime Minister Sharif praised the departing general. “He proved beyond a shadow of doubt that he is one of the finest military leaders of his generation,” the prime minister said. “Pakistan today is much safer and stronger than in 2013.”

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  1. S
    Shafted mohammed
    Nov 26, 2016 at 5:09 pm
    Yeh to WWE ke wrestler Sargent slaughter Jaime dikhta hai. I hope inshallah that he be better than the general sharif as the stani army is still adopting old doctorene and Indian side have dramatically changed tactics. They are not at all scared and with new anti missile defense the stani planes cannot take off from most of its bases stan needs a general who can save their troops as they are getting slaughtered.
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      Hindu Natinalist
      Nov 26, 2016 at 5:12 pm
      " world's sixth-largest army by troop numbers " call stan a stan , boot licker media. Dont Praise each and every move of stan. if you want to praise do it for indian army. lt;br/gt;Boost moral of our country, Dear Pressutes.
      Reply
      1. H
        Hindu Natinalist
        Nov 26, 2016 at 5:18 pm
        Indian Read Express...
        Reply
        1. H
          Hindu Natinalist
          Nov 26, 2016 at 5:18 pm
          Indian Express
          Reply
          1. H
            Hindu Natinalist
            Nov 26, 2016 at 5:17 pm
            IndianExpress
            Reply
            1. H
              Hindu Natinalist
              Nov 26, 2016 at 5:19 pm
              This Is Indians And There are express..
              Reply
              1. J
                Jawad
                Nov 26, 2016 at 11:16 pm
                He will carry the baton of courage and bravery. India will continue to have same treatment which she really deserve.
                Reply
                1. R
                  Ramesh Nittoor
                  Nov 26, 2016 at 10:50 pm
                  Chinese strategists are profound thinkers, they will find ways to keep India and stan divided for foreseeable future. Any investment to keep subcontinent divided in a lose-lose mode is worth it. The way polity of Hindutva has evolved in India during British times, then co-opted by Shiv Sena to transit from anti-South Indians polity to anti-Muslim polity. Later co-opted by RSS to transit from benign cultural nationalism to more ertive and evolve a political arm in form of BJP, makes it difficult for BJP to match Chinese in depth of intellect. The project to upgrade to Bharatiyata initiated by ABV and carried forward by PM Modi is still work in progress. Only success in this effort can impart the temperament and cultural depth to match Chinese and counter their subtle strategies.
                  Reply
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