With little fanfare, and even less ado, a statement was issued from the Prime Minister house, and Pakistan has a new Chief of Army Staff and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee – General Qamar Javed Bajwa and General Zubair Mahmood Hayat respectively. Compared to the raucous proceedings that herald the arrival of a new civilian government, the appointment of the new army leadership seems a tame affair, but few would deny that this transition is just as important as any general election.

Fortunately, the institute seems to be in good hands; both appointees are considered highly capable men, and the COAS, General Qamar Bajwa is widely regarded as a professional and solid soldier. He would need to bring all that capability to bear as the country faces several challenges, and he would have to hit the ground running.

The foremost of these challenges is the threat from extremist groups. The military operations under the leadership of General Raheel Sharif have markedly improved the security situation in the country but work still needs to be done. There has been a demonstrable revival in terrorist attacks in places such as Quetta and Peshawar, and new enemies – such as ISIS – have surfaced in the remote border regions. The new chief also has to tackle the looming question of a military operation in Punjab, which is long overdue – the most challenging part of which may be to convince a reluctant government to do its bit.

The increasing intensity of ceasefire violations on our eastern border will also require immediate attention. How to deal with a belligerent India under Narendra Modi is an exigent question and the new chief needs to have a convincing answer. Pakistani government and the military seemed to be stuck in a rut when it came to dealing with India, and the onus would be on General Bajwa to formulate an effective strategy.

In the same vein, the relations with Afghanistan require a reset, and while it will be a difficult task given the extent of the diplomatic deterioration, a change in leadership is always an opportunity to start anew.

Of course, any discussion about the future decisions of a Pakistani army chief is incomplete without the mention of the civil-military imbalance. Thankfully, General Bajwa is reported to be a firm supporter of civilian primacy – part of the reason he was selected.

General Bajwa is replacing a popular and effective COAS, whose legacy includes a glowing mention of the fact that he declined to interfere with democracy despite calls from some sectors of the public, and that he refused to demand an extension – one he would have easily gotten. It is hoped that the new COAS can take these achievements and this stance forward.