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  • Raheel Sharif named as new Pakistan army Commander

    Pakistan has appointed Lt Gen Raheel Sharif as its new army head after weeks of speculation, a move correspondents say could define PM Nawaz Sharif's third term in office.

    Lt Gen Sharif replaces Gen Ashfaq Pervez Kayani, who retires on Thursday.

    The government has also named Lt Gen Rashid Mahmood as the new chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee.

    The appointments are seen as vital in fighting the Taliban and in determining the army's role in politics.

    Correspondents say Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif will have carefully considered his crucial appointment of Lt Gen Sharif - who is not related to him - because the prime minister has twice had run-ins with the military during previous terms in office.

    In 1999 Mr Sharif was forced from office in a military take-over led by Gen Pervez Musharraf.

    In 1993 army chief Abdul Waheed Kakar led a push to get Mr Sharif to resign and hold elections following a long-running political stand-off between the prime minister and President Ghulam Ishaq.
    Overt interference

    Little is so far known about Gen Sharif, correspondents say, apart from the fact that his brother was one of the army's most decorated soldiers and was killed in the 1971 war with India.

    The new army chief, a career infantry soldier, is expected to continue Gen Kayani's policies and to avoid overt interference in politics.

    Lt Gen Sharif is thought to have been third on the army's seniority list.

    He is not known as an ambitious general, the BBC's Shahzeb Jillani in Islamabad says.

    Before his promotion, he headed the army's training and evaluation department and has previously served in senior roles as a corps commander and head of the country's premier training institution, the Military Academy in Abbottabad.

    The change of command comes as Pakistan faces a daunting array of challenges - including a home-grown Taliban insurgency that has claimed thousands of lives, strained relations with India over the Kashmir dispute and the winding-down in 2014 of the 12-year Nato mission in neighbouring Afghanistan.

    Pakistan has experienced three military coups since independence in 1947 and has been run by the army for half of its 66-year history.

    Gen Kayani's stance of not overtly interfering in politics allowed the country to experience its first successful transition between democratically elected governments earlier this year.
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