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Pakistan's Prime Minister Appoints New Army Chief

Pakistan's new army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa
Pakistan's new army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa

Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has appointed Lieutenant General Qamar Javed Bajwa as the new army chief to replace the outgoing General Raheel Sharif.

General Raheel Sharif was a popular military leader, commended for improving the security situation and cracking down on militant groups.

General Bajwa will take over the world's sixth-largest army by troop numbers in a formal handover on November 29, when General Sharif's three-year term expires.

The army chief is arguably the most powerful person in Pakistan, where the military has ruled for more than half of the country's 69-year-history since it gained independence in 1947.

The prime minister also named General Zubair Mehmood Hayat as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee (CJCSC), the most senior military office. Hayat would have an almost exclusive jurisdiction over nuclear forces and assets in this position.

"On the advice of Pakistani Prime Minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif, President Mamnoon Hussain has approved the promotion of Lieutenant General Zubair Mehmood Hayat and Lieutenant General Qamar Javed Bajwa," the prime minister's office said.

Bajwa was selected over Lieutenant General Ishfaq Nadeem, commander of the strategic Multan strike corps and seen by many pundits as favorite for the post.

Little is known about Bajwa, who has been heading the army's Training and Evaluation Wing. His position is unknown on delicate issues such as the army's relationship with the civilian government or his stance towards archrival India.

In a statement on November 26, the military released a brief biography 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 has also served abroad, commanding the Pakistan Contingent in Congo, and spent time commanding infantry divisions.

Pakistan's powerful army has an oversized role in domestic and foreign affairs.

Apart from controlling security, the military has a vast business empire in the country and often dictates key areas of Pakistan's foreign policy, including relations with neighboring India and Afghanistan.

With reporting by Reuters and dpa

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