(NBC News) Nuclear-armed Pakistan named a new army chief on Wednesday, a role widely seen as the most powerful position in the a country which has seen three periods of military rule.
Lieutenant-General Raheel Sharif will take over as head of the world's sixth-largest army on Friday from General Ashfaq Kayani, who is retiring after six years at the helm.
The announcement comes as tension with arch-rival India over disputed Kashmir is rising and as the United States seeks Pakistan's help in bringing peace to Afghanistan ahead of the withdrawal of most Western forces there next year.
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Pakistan's army has been called the "state within the state" of the Islamic republic, due to its control of the intelligence and security realms and interventionism in the country of 180 million.