Conflict & Justice

Pakistan names Raheel Sharif new army commander


Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif (R) speaks with outgoing Pakistani Army Chief General Ashfaq Kayani on November 4, 2013.



After weeks of media speculation, Pakistan named on Wednesday General Raheel Sharif its new army commander.

The prime minister's office made a brief statement announcing Sharif's promotion to Chief of Army Staff, the most powerful position in Pakistan.

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The new commander will take control of Pakistan's army, the sixth largest military in the world, on Friday, when incumbent chief General Ashfaq Pervez Kayani retires after six years at the helm of the 600,000-strong army.

The government also named General Rashid Mahmood as the new chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee and announced a new Supreme Court chief justice.

Both Sharif and Mahmood's appointments are considered vital in fighting the Taliban and in determining the army's political role.

Retired General Talat Masood, now a defense analyst, said Sharif, while little known outside military circles, represented "continuity" with the Kayani's time as commander.

Masood also noted that Sharif's experience of counter-insurgency and counter-terrorism operations made him right for the job.

Sharif, who has no relation to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, was chosen for the highly regarded position over two more senior generals.

When Kayani confirmed last month that he would retire, he stressed that the armed forces "fully support and want to strengthen" democracy.