ISLAMABAD, Nov 27: Ending months of speculation, the government on Wednesday named Lt Gen Raheel Sharif as the next army chief to succeed retiring Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani who steps down on Thursday after serving as the top commander for six years.

The government also filled the vacancy of the ceremonial office of Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee with the more senior Lt Gen Rashad Mehmood, chief of general staff, who was once tipped to be hot favourite for elevation to the office of chief of army staff.

“On the advice of the Prime Minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif and in pursuance of Article 243/4(a) and 243/4(b) of the Constitution of Pakistan, President of Pakistan and Supreme Commander of Armed Forces Mamnoon Hussain has been pleased to promote and appoint Gen Rashad Mehmood as Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee and Gen Raheel Sharif as Chief of the Army Staff,” a notification issued on Wednesday said.

The notification followed a meeting of the prime minister with the two generals – Gen Sharif and Gen Rashad.

Senior most general officer Lt Gen Haroon Aslam, currently chief of logistic staff, has been superseded.

Gen Sharif’s choice came as a surprise for many observers, who were expecting one of the battle hardened generals to take over the mantle from Gen Kayani because the transition is taking place at a very crucial time with the foreign forces set to drawdown from Afghanistan by next year and the impending peace initiative with the local militants – Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan – yet to take off.

Gen Sharif, 57, despite sharing the surname with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is not related to him. The two, however, share the Kashmiri origins.

Gen Sharif is a protégé of Gen (retd) Abdul Qadir Baloch, currently federal minister for States and Frontier Regions and a close confidant of Prime Minister Sharif. The new army chief twice served under Gen Baloch as chief of staff of Gujranwala and Quetta corps.

The army chief designate is younger brother of Maj Shabbir Sharif, recipient of the highest military decoration Nishan-i-Haider who was killed in 1971 war with India.

Gen Sharif is also related to another Nishan-i-Haider recipient Major Aziz Bhatti.

Gen Sharif is from PMA’s 54th Long Course and was commissioned in Army’s 6th Battalion of the Frontier Force Regiment in Oct 1976. He is from Infantry.

He comes from a martial lineage. His father and two brothers served in the army.

His detractors say that he may not be the best choice for a military engaged in war with the militants as compared to some other generals, who had taken part in counter-militancy operations.

Others say that as the head of Training and Evaluation Wing at the General Headquarters, he was very much part of the exercise within the army for preparing troops for counter-insurgency and counter-terrorism operations.

Moreover, having served as Corps Commander Gujranwala from Oct 2010 to Oct 2012 he is well versed with the army’s strategy for countering India’s Cold Start doctrine.

“As a Lieutenant General he served as Corps Commander 30 Corps for two years before taking over as Inspector General Training and Evaluation in which capacity he oversaw the training of Pakistan Army.

His stewardship resulted in fructification of Pakistan Army’s operational thought and doctrinal response to the much vaunted Cold Start doctrine of Indian Army,” his profile released by ISPR said.

MILITARY CAREER: As a young officer, he performed his duties in Gilgit in an Infantry Brigade and also served as Adjutant of Pakistan Military Academy.

He did Company Commander’s Course from Germany and subsequently served in the prestigious School of Infantry and Tactics as an instructor.

He went to the Command and Staff College Canada and attended Armed Forces War Course at National Defence University, Islamabad, in 1998.

Gen Musharraf, as army chief, nominated him for prestigious Royal College of Defence Studies (RCDS) course in London.

He served as the Brigade Major of an Infantry Brigade and has commanded two infantry units – 6 Frontier Force Regiment in Kashmir along the LoC and 26 Frontier Force Regiment along the Sialkot border.

He has been the General Officer Commanding of an Infantry Division and the Commandant of prestigious Pakistan Military Academy.

CHAIRMAN JOINT CHIEFS: Gen Rashad Mehmood’s appointment as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee technically makes him the head of all armed forces and the nuclear programme.

The chairman’s position, however, is largely a ceremonial one in the military hierarchy.

He was thought to be Gen Kayani’s preference as his successor. The outgoing army chief had made him the chief of general staff.