Lt General Qamar Javed Bajwa of the Baloch regiment, currently serving as the Inspector General of Training and Evaluation in General Headquarters at Rawalpindi, will be the new Pakistan army chief. He will assume charge on Tuesday, the day General Raheel Sharif retires from service.
At a time of frequent skirmishes between India and Pakistan on the Line of Control, the selection of Lt General Bajwa, who is seen as a Kashmir expert, is significant. Lt Gen Bajwa has commanded an infantry battalion and an infantry brigade, and as major general, led the Force Command Northern Areas which is responsible for northern areas of Kashmir, including the Siachen glacier. He then went on to command 10 Corps, Pakistan’s biggest corps.
Apart from appointing Lt Gen Bajwa, Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Saturday named Lt General Zubair Hayat as the new Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee (CJCSC).
In what could also be of interest to India, Pakistani media reports suggest that Lt Gen Bajwa considers extremism a bigger threat to Pakistan than India. A senior Pakistan army officer, who served under Lt General Bajwa in 10 Corps, told The Sunday Express that the chief-designate was “not a hardliner”, rather a “simple and straight-forward general who is sensibly bold”.
Lt General Bajwa has another India connection. As a brigadier, he served with the UN peacekeeping mission in Congo as a brigade commander alongside former Indian Army chief General Bikram Singh.
Named CJCSC on Saturday, Lt Gen Hayat was believed to be in contention for the army chief post. The other two names doing the rounds were of Bahawalpur Corps Commander Lt Gen Javed Iqbal Ramday and Multan Corps Commander Lt Gen Ishfaq Nadeem.
Like his predecessor General Sharif, Bajwa moves to the top post after serving as Inspector General of Training and Evaluation in Rawalpindi.
General Sharif, who was chosen as army chief in 2014, will become the first Pakistan army chief in more than 20 years to step down on time. Several previous Pakistani military leaders obtained extensions of their three-year terms.