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GUJRAT/GUJRANWALA: There was an air of festivity among the residents of Gakhar Mandi city, near Gujranwala Cantonment, who gathered on GT Road on Saturday to celebrate the appointment of the new army chief, General Qamar Javed Bajwa, whose family hails from the small town in central Punjab.

Amjad Raza Khokhar, the municipal committee councillor elected from the ward where Gen Bajwa’s ancestral house is located, distributed sweets among the happy locals gathered under a pedestrian bridge on GT Road.

A resident of Ghalla Mandi told Dawn that Gen Bajwa had not studied at his ancestral town since his father had been an army officer who was posted in various parts of the country. However, he said, the people here were happy that the general had put the small town on the map.

They told journalists that Gen Bajwa’s father Col Muhammad Iqbal Bajwa was buried in Cheemianwala graveyard in Gakhar city and that Gen Bajwa had visited his father’s grave two years ago.

The house he had lived in has been vacant for some time as the family had moved away from the Ghalla Mandi area of the town to Rawalpindi several decades ago. Chief of the army staff General Raheel Sharif, who is about to retire in a few days, hails from Kunjah in Gujrat, a neighbouring district of Gujranwala, and his family, quite like Gen Bajwa’s, had moved out of their native town.

Before he officially retires, COAS Gen Sharif is scheduled to visit Kunjah on Sunday (Nov 27), to inaugurate the Shabeer Sharif Shaheed hospital, built by the Punjab government on the army chief’s recommendation.

Published in Dawn, November 27th, 2016