PAKISTAN’S former spy master and senior-most Lt General Asim Munir was on Thursday appointed as the new Army chief by President Arif Alvi, ending intense speculation over the most powerful position in the coup-prone country, where the military wields considerable power in matters of security and foreign policy. Lt General Munir has served as chief of two most powerful Intelligence agencies - the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and the Military Intelligence (MI) - but his stint as the spy chief at the ISI was the shortest ever as he was replaced by Lt General Faiz Hamid within eight months on the insistence of then-Prime Minister Imran Khan in 2019. Munir was among those in Pakistan who oversaw the 2019 Pulwama terror attack, according to Tilak Devasher, a member of the National Security Advisory Board (NSAB) and who retired as Special Secretary, Cabinet Secretariat. “It was under his (Lt Gen Munir’s) watch that the Pulwama attack took place and he was DG of the ISI in Novemberandthishappened in February 2019. He also served in theareas inthe core that overlooks or deals with Kashmir in India. So, he is very familiar with this area” DevashertoldANIinaninterview.
He would replace General Qamar Javed Bajwa, who retires on November 29 after two consecutive three-year terms.GeneralBajwa,61,was appointed as the Army chief in2016 for a three-yearterm. He was given a three-year extension by the Khan Government in 2019. Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif on Thursday sent a summary to President Alvi for appointing Lt General Munir as the Chief of Army Staff(COAS)andLtGenSahir Shamshad Mirza as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee (CJCSC). After receiving the summary, Alvi, who belonged to the PakistanTehreek-e-Insaf party before assuming presidency,flewtoLahoretomeet party chairman Imran Khan and held consultation over theproposedappointments. After his return to Islamabad, Alvi signed the summary and approved the appointment of Lt General Munir as the new Army chief and Lt General Mirza as the next CJCSC. SourcessaidthatPresident AlvihasinvitedthenewArmy chief and the CJCSC for a meeting with him at the President House. TheendorsementhascompletedtheprocessofappointingthenewArmychiefwhich had created political uncertainty and economic vulnerability in the country. Both officers have also been promoted to four-star Generals. The CJCSC is the highest authority in the hierarchy of theArmedForcesbutthekey powers including mobilisationoftroops, appointments and transfers lie with the COAS which makes the personholdingthepostthemost powerful in the military. The powerfulArmy, which has ruled Pakistan for more than half of its 75-plus years of existence, has hitherto wielded considerable power inmattersofsecurityandforeignpolicy.
Theappointment coincides with a dispute between the military and Khan, who blames the Army forplayinga role in hisouster in April this year through a no-confidence vote. Khan’s close aide and former Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry said on Wednesday that‘untilwe see the conduct ofthenewArmy chief,wecannotsayanything about it, but the role of the Army in politics in the last 6 months is controversial, this rolewillneedtobechanged.” LtGeneralMuniristhesenior-most General. Although he was promoted to the rank of two-star general in September 2018, he took charge two months later. As a result, his four-year tenure as Lt General will end on November 27. But with his appointmentasCOAS,hehas got a three-year extension in the service.