After heading the Pakistan army for six years, General Ashfaque Parvez Kayani on Friday handed over charge to the new Chief of Army Staff General Raheel Sharif at a ceremony in Rawalpindi.

Speaking on the occasion General Kayani dwelt on the sacrifices of the soldiers and the range of challenges for the military. He referred to the role of the army in establishing peace in some of the country’s most difficult areas after taking on terrorism. He also underscored the support of the military and its contribution to the nation.

General Kayani was the army chief for six years, all during civilian rule and given an extension after three years by the previous regime. He called on people to rise above sectarian and other prejudices and play a positive role for the development of the country. He also said the army was ready to meet internal and external challenges. He had earlier publicly supported the government’s move for a dialogue with Taliban.

He retires after serving the army for 44 years and he said it was a great honour for him to lead the institution. In October General Kayani responding to rumours about his post retirement future, said that institutions and traditions are stronger than individuals and must take precedence. He also indicated that the armed forces of Pakistan fully support and want to strengthen this democratic order.

His statement had come after intense speculation that he would be made Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee (CJCSC) in a new and more powerful avatar after General Khalid Shameem Wynne retired. During the All Parties Conference in September General Kayani had indicated the army’s support for a dialogue process with the Taliban. Later he refuted talk that he favoured a dialogue since army operations had failed to root out terrorism. He defended the military operation in Swat as an example where the army was successful and had even helped people who were internally displaced to return home. On India too he had regretted what he described as “unfortunate, unfounded and provocative” some statements by the Indian military leadership, particularly, the Indian Army chief alleging Pakistan Army and the ISI’s support to terrorism. He had supported Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s peace overtures to India and said the Pakistan Army is fully supportive of the peace process initiated by the government.

He had also said India would be well advised to respond positively to Pakistan’s suggestion for holding a joint or impartial investigation into the Line of Control incidents, preferably by the United Nations.

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