Army Chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa will today hand over the command of the Army to the new Army Chief on completion of his tenure, for which he will hand over the symbol of the Army Command “Malacca Stick” to General Asim Munir.
The baton of command or baton is not central to the inauguration ceremony of the new army chief but has a complete history.
Malacca stick is given to a 1 star army officer i.e. a soldier of Brigadier rank, a new Brigadier gets this stick from his old officer, the old officer hands over his baton to the new officer for promotion. One moves up the ladder to the next rank and receives the baton from the officer in that rank, and so on to the four-star general and then the army chief.
Why is the innocuous stick considered as a symbol of transfer of command?
The stick of command dates back to early traditions in which the warrior chief carried a very heavy but small in volume “graz”, called a mace in English.
In ancient times physical strength was important along with mental strength to win wars and warlords could easily pick up these heavy hammers and use them when needed. As time passed and the use of armor increased, the practical utility of hammers began to diminish. However, as a tradition it remained.
In the West, in the 14th century, the cross came to be used more symbolically, now carrying the sergeant-at-arms rather than the sergeant-at-arms.
By the 16th century in the West, the “grunt” had lost the iron piece at one end and the handle at the other end, leaving only a thin rod in the middle, but the shape of the grunt had changed, but it was still a symbol of power.
This cane came to be used in both politics and the military, the Sergeant-at-Arms of many countries, including the United Kingdom, carry such a cane, as do military commanders.
The command stick is also known as “Malacca Cane”. This stick is made from a special bamboo sourced from the island of Malacca in Singapore.
Similar bamboo is found in the Indonesian island of Sumatra, but the tradition is to use Malacca bamboo.
This Malacca bamboo is very light in weight but extremely strong.
Apart from Pakistan, the commanders of the armed forces in India, Sri Lanka and the United Kingdom also carry the same bamboo cane.
When is a stick used?
According to Pakistan’s military traditions, the army command must raise the baton on certain occasions such as saluting the national flag, receiving the guard of honor and watching parades.
On the other hand, on some occasions the stick of command is kept away. Whenever the Army Chief meets the President, Prime Minister or any other big person, the baton of command is not with him.