New Pakistan army chief takes command

New Pakistan army chief takes command

RAWALPINDI,Pakistan - General Raheel Sharif on Friday formally took over as the head of Pakistan's army, the most powerful position in the troubled military-dominated nation which is battling a homegrown Taliban insurgency.

Sharif, named chief of the army staff on Wednesday, took charge from predecessor General Ashfaq Kayani at a ceremony at military headquarters in Rawalpindi.

He takes over as the nuclear-armed state faces a daunting array of challenges - the six-year Taliban campaign which has claimed thousands of lives, vexed relations with India and the winding-down of the 12-year NATO mission in neighbouring Afghanistan.

Sharif, a veteran infantry commander, was little known outside military circles before his promotion to army chief, but analysts say he is a dedicated soldier with little interest in politics.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif passed over two more senior generals to appoint his namesake, who is no relation, and will be hoping to avoid a repeat of events the last time he named an army chief - General Pervez Musharraf overthrew him in a coup in 1999.

Pakistan has seen three coups and been ruled for more than half its 66-year history by the military. The armed forces still retain a powerful influence.

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