Lt General Raheel Sharif, Pakistan’s newly appointed chief of army staff, will take charge on Friday and is considered as a soldier’s soldier by some for his family background and as a thinking soldier by others because of his emphasis on training and operational thought.
He is said to be the man behind the doctrinal response of the Pakistan Army to the Indian Army cold start doctrine.
He will be the country’s fifteenth army chief and comes from a decorated army family which includes an elder brother, Major Shabbir Sharif who was awarded a Nishan-e-Haider, Pakistan’s highest military award for valour against Indian forces. Shabbir Sharif was earlier given the Sitara-e-Jurrat and that makes him Pakistan’s highly decorated military officer. General Raheel’s uncle was Major Aziz Bhatti, another receipant of the Nishan-e-Haider.
Born in Quetta, Raheel Sharif is the son of Major Sharif, an army officer who at the time was serving at the Command and Staff college there. While the Sharif family is originally from Gujrat city in Punjab, it traces its roots to Kashmir. But for most part of his education, General Raheel sharif spent time in Lahore.
He attended the Government College Lahore, the alma mater of PM Sharif. Prior to his appointment as COAS, Lt Gen Sharif was working as the Principal Staff Officer to General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani as well as the Inspector General Training and Evaluation.
Talking about PM’s new choice, Professor Shaun Gregory, Chair in International Security, School of Government and International Affairs of University of Durham said, “I think the choice of COAS is not unexpected, but it does indicate Nawaz Sharif reaching beyond the seniority order of succession to the younger man, as he did before with Musharraf (let’s hope that is not a precedent!). Indeed I understand the new COAS was a Musharraf protege at one point.” “His roles in leading education and training in the Pak Army have also kept him out of the more difficult theatres (FATA/KPK/AFG, Kashmir, etc) but may suggest some creative thinking by Nawaz Sharif about the future evolution of the Pakistan Army,” Gregory added.
(With inputs from Prasun Sonwalkar in London)