ISLAMABAD - General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, Pakistan’s longest serving military chief during civilian rule, bade farewell to the barracks on Thursday following the general’s last formal interaction with his top army aides including operational commanders, staff officers and spymasters.

Separately, General Rashad Mahmood assumed the charge of Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee (CJCSC) on Thursday in a ceremony held at Joint Staff Headquarters (JSHQ), a military statement said.

Unlike the routine commanders’ meet-ups that extensively discuss the security, operational, strategic and related issues involving external and internal fronts and devise military strategy accordingly, the 164th Corps Commanders Conference, according to military sources, was ‘ceremonial’ in nature, with General Kayani chairing the event for the last time.

The meeting was held to honour the outgoing military chief, officials said, adding that the principal staff officers (PSO) and heads of military’s intelligence wings also showed up at the meeting. In his farewell remarks, General Kayani told the commanders that it was an honour for him to lead ‘world’s greatest army’ for six years, “It makes me (feel) proud,” he said. The general thanked the commanders for supporting him in discharge of duties.

General Rashad Mahmood (prior to assuming CJCSC charge) and new Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Raheel Sharif attended the meet-up as participants. Sharif is to assume charge as new army chief at the Farewell to Arms ceremony scheduled outside the General Headquarters (GHQ) today (Friday).

Interestingly, Lt-Gen Haroon Aslam did not attend the event despite been invited, the sources informed. Technically, the military sources said, Aslam was still a serving army general, since the GHQ did not reportedly send his leave preparatory to retirement (LPR) application to the Ministry of Defence (MoD) by Thursday evening.

Aslam had proceeded on LPR after Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif Wednesday appointed Rashad Mahmood and Raheel Sharif, the second and third in the seniority list of army’s three-star generals, respectively as CJCSC and COAS, whereas Haroon Aslam, the senior-most Lt-Gen was superseded. The decision came in plain negation of the PM’s open contention to appoint the senior-most generals on the two slots.

Under the official procedure, any army officer proceeding on LPR is required to perform duties till permission to this effect granted by the GHQ and subsequent issuance of related notification by the MoD. Reportedly, the ministry’s Additional Secretary-I (Army) Arif Nazir Raja is to issue notification about Haroon Aslam’s proceeding on LPR till his retirement in April 2014, after receiving the relevant file from the GHQ.

Till last few months, the Corps Commanders Conferences were not being held on a regular or monthly basis. The Thursday meeting was held nearly three months after last (163rd) Cops Commanders Conference was held on September 4. Prior to that, the 162nd meeting was held on July 8. Before that, the commanders meeting were held every month. On October 3, an informal commanders ceremony was held at the GHQ to bid farewell to the then outgoing CJCSC General Khalid Shameem Wynne, which was widely mistaken as the 164th Corps Commanders Conference.

Meanwhile, during his last day at office, General Kayani on Thursday is said to have devoted his time to meeting the army officers, government functionaries and some foreign dignitaries who made farewell calls on him. Later, he visited the Presidency and PM Secretariat to meet President Mamnoon Hussain and PM Nawaz Sharif, in line with his scheduled farewell meetings.