Islamabad -  It’s not just the analysts who consider the new army chief something of a dark horse, General Qamar Javed Bajwa himself did not see him securing the top army slot, at least until a couple of months ago.

Feroz Hassan Khan, a retired Pakistani brigadier, who was the Commanding Officer of the new army chief back in 90s when both officers were posted in Kashmir, testified this in an interview.

“Bajwa almost laughed it off when I told him that he would be a strong contender to be the next army chief,” states Khan, who is based in California and met Gen Bajwa in September during a visit to Pakistan. “He (Bajwa) didn’t think he was a serious contender.”

“Gen Bajwa is a man of tremendous integrity. He is not a sycophant. He is a straight talker. He means what he says,” said the former army officer and the author of ‘Eating Grass: The Making Of The Pakistani Bomb’, a book about Pakistan’s nuclear programme.

“But at the same time, this is a great moment in the civil military relations of the country as Gen Bajwa is a staunch believer in democracy,” said Mr Khan, who is based in Monterey, California. “He believes in giving the civilians space. This is very important.”

Gen Bajwa, like his predecessor, comes from a military family and hails from Punjab province. Both his father and father-in-law were military officers. His father in law retired as a major general.

Mr Feroz Hassan Khan said Gen Bajwa “doesn’t have a visceral hatred for India although he knows India very well”. “Nobody knows the Line of Control like him,” he said referring to the de-facto international border in the Kashmir region.

Bajwa is not a publicity-seeking person and is expected to avoid media and just focus on his job, Mr Khan said. “His plate is already full.”

The newly appointed army chief has a love for reading, like a former army chief Gen Kayani, under whom Gen Bajwa served.

“He is very well read. He not only likes to read about military but he is also very interested in international relations” the retired officer said.

“Gen Bajwa is a person who would like to balance the international relations of the country. In Pakistan, there is a tendency to go to extremes,” Feroz Khan said.

“Now that relations with China have become even stronger, some talk of abandoning the relations with United States. Gen Bajwa doesn’t think in those extremes,” he added.