Pakistan Army chief Gen Raheel Sharif on Monday began his farewell visits to military units ahead of the end of his tenure on November 29 even as the defence minister said Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif would select the next chief.
The development squelched speculation that Gen Sharif could be given an extension in the face of heightened tensions with India and differences between the civil and military leadership over issues such as countering terrorism.
The army chief will send a list of the senior-most generals to Prime Minister Sharif for selecting the next army chief, defence minister Khawaja Asif said. “The prime minister will decide on a name after first consulting the chief of army staff, colleagues and cabinet members,” Asif was quoted as saying by Geo News.
“Gen Raheel Sharif had several successes during his tenure. No other army in the world has achieved such success against terrorism. I think that Gen Raheel Sharif is leaving a legacy which he and the armed forces can be proud of,” Asif said.
As far back as January, Gen Sharif had made it clear he would not seek an extension. However, recent differences between the civil and military leadership had sparked speculation that he would be given an extension.
Gen Sharif started his farewell visits to army units from Lahore, the military’s media arm said in a statement. He addressed a large gathering of soldiers at Lahore Garrison and said the accomplishment of peace and stability was no ordinary task.
#COAS kicks off his farewell visits beginning from Lhr today.Meets,addresses,thanks huge gathering of soldiers of Army&Rangers at Garrison-1— Gen Asim Bajwa (@AsimBajwaISPR) November 21, 2016
Accomplishment of peace&stability no ordinary task.Our sacrifices&joint national resolve helped us in off setting all odds against country-2 pic.twitter.com/yYak27TU98— Gen Asim Bajwa (@AsimBajwaISPR) November 21, 2016
Operation Zarb-e-Azb, the army’s campaign against militant groups, had resulted in a “more secure and stable Pakistan with a sense of greater hope and direction” the army chief said.
“It was our sacrifices and joint national resolve that helped us in offsetting all odds against our country. We are fully prepared to respond to any challenge and no one could dare cast an evil eye on Pakistan,” he said.
The tensions between the civil and military leadership could still play a role in the choice of the next army chief, with the race having narrowed down to four generals.
The four generals whose names are doing the rounds for the most powerful position in Pakistan are Lt Gen Javed Iqbal Ramday, commander of Bahawalpur-based XXXI Corps, Lt Gen Zubair Hayat, Chief of General Staff, Lt Gen Ishfaq Nadeem Ahmad, commander of the Multan-based II Corps, and Lt Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa, who heads the army’s training and evaluation wing.