In an imposing but tight ceremony executed with precision down to the second, the new army chief, General Raheel Sharif, on Friday formally assumed the charge after his predecessor General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani handed him the command of one of the country’s most powerful institutions.
After a send-off that included a band, a presentation of a general salute by a marching parade that included soldiers from Kayani’s own original 5 Baloch Regiment, and a grand drum solo send-off, Gen Kayani passed on the baton of command, the ‘Malacca Cane,’ to his successor at the ceremony held in the Army Hockey Stadium near the General Headquarters in Rawalpindi.
Amid tight security, a large number of people, including services chiefs, federal ministers, diplomats and serving and retired army officers attended the much-awaited ceremony. All roads leading to the venue were closed for over two hours as only invitees were allowed in.
It could have been an emotional time for Kayani, who commanded the army for six years, but the outgoing chief appeared stoic and composed for the most part – particularly as he moved sure-footed, step-in-step with his protocol as he inspected the guard of honour, as if it could have been any other event during his stint at the helm.
Before handing over the baton, Kayani delivered a farewell speech in his uniquely cool and dispassionate tone and tenor. Saying that it was an honour commanding the seventh largest army in the world, he recalled that when he took over the command, the institution was facing a number of internal and external challenges. “But today we can all say with pride that the Pakistan Army is prepared for all internal and external threats.”
Kayani also insisted that during his tenure he always held the interest of the country and army supreme while taking important decisions.
“We’ve been facing the menace of terrorism over the past one decade which has caused irreparable damage,” he said.
He highlighted the sacrifices rendered by Pakistan Army in the fight against terrorism and promised that the army would continue to fight for the country at all costs.
The outgoing army chief urged the nation to rise above all linguistic and sectarian prejudices and play a positive role for the progress and prosperity of the country‚ as it is the only path to success.
He stated that he “got to see the situation of the country up close and can say with complete confidence that the citizens of Pakistan are capable and intelligent… and the future is bright”.
The only part during which Kayani appeared to let any sort of emotion come out was as he ended his speech, saying that, though he was leaving, his prayers and heart would remain with the army, and hoped that the soldiers would also keep him in their thoughts and prayers.
Kayani expressed the hope that Pakistan Army, under the leadership of General Raheel Sharif, would achieve more successes.
In a first major decision since he took over the command, the new army chiefon Friday appointed Lt Gen Ishfaq Nadeem as Chief of General Staff (CGS).
The key slot stood vacant after former CGS Gen Rashad Mehmood was promoted and appointed as Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee.
Before his promotion to the rank of Lt Gen, Nadeem served as Director General Military Operations (DGMO) for over two years. He commanded a strike infantry division and led a successful military operation in Swat.
He was also chief of staff of a strike corps. The post of CGS is considered the most important position after the army chief. Military sources said a major reshuffle in the army was expected in next few days.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 30th, 2013.
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