|Published: November 2016|
Islamabad. Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa took over as the Pakistan’s army’s 16th Chief, succeeding Gen Raheel Sharif on his due date of retirement.
The outgoing chief was given a ceremonial sendoff as he handed over the chief’s baton to his successor. Army units, including from the Northern Light Infantry which had intruded into India leading to the 1999 Kargil War, took part in the farewell parade.
The ceremony, held at the Army Hockey Stadium, was telecasted live on Pakistani TV channels.
Although Gen Sharif gave a warning to India in his farewell remarks, Gen Bajwa expressed the hope that situation on the Line of Control (LOC) with India should improve soon. This was regarded as a positive indication but observers in New Delhi said they would wait and watch.
There has been relative peace on the LoC for the last few days, although coinciding with the new chief’s induction ceremony, there was yet another terror attack on a major Indian army base in Jammu.
Three terrorists, dressed in police uniforms, were killed while two Indian Army officers and five men were martyred. Women and children taken hostage by the barbaiians were rescued.
Terrorists usually infiltrate from Pakistan under cover fire and then lie low till directed by their handlers to attack.
In his farewell speech, Gen Sharif asked everybody to work together to strengthen Pakistan’s security, and also cautioned India against adopting an aggressive stance in the region, the Dawn newspaper reported.
“It is important that all institutions work together against external threats and internal threats and for this we will need to follow the National Action Plan in letter and spirit,” he said and accused India of “increasing terrorism and aggressive stance” in Kashmir.
“India should know that mistaking our policy of patience for weakness would be dangerous.”
The smooth transfer of power from one army chief to another is always a mystery in Pakistan, given its history of military coups and the fact that in its existence of 69 years, Pakistan has been ruled directly by army chiefs for 32 years.
An army chief is the most powerful person in Pakistan, and Gen Parvez Musharraf is the only one being hassled by courts for the murder of Baloch leader Nawab Akbar Shahbaz Khan Bugti in 2006. Now in exile, Gen Musharraf ruled Pakistan as its head of state from 1999 till 2008. In the first couple of years after taking over in a coup overthrowing Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, he had designated himself as the country’s chief executive, and then the president.
The army plays a dominant role in political, nuclear, economic, and foreign affairs, and Gen Sharif is the first in nearly two decades to retire on the due date after the designated tenure of three years. He had though graciously announced well in advance that he would not seek any extension, and he has stood up to his word.
Besides maintaining the institutional anti-India stance however, Gen Sharif also cracked down on terrorists, albeit selectively. Those who are deployed or supported against India by the army and its infamous intelligence and sabotage agency ISI, have the privilege to do what they want.