Later this month the Pakistan Army will have a new Chief of Army Staff (COAS) — Lieutenant General Syed Asim Munir. The new chief will take over from the outgoing General Qamar Javed Bajwa, who is retiring later this month at the end of his six year tenure, after getting a three year extension.
The announcement has been made by the Defence Ministry of Pakistan. The Army in Pakistan plays an extraordinarily influential role in running the country and has been wielding power in matters of not only security but also foreign policy.
Lt Gen Munir also known to be Pakistan’s chief spy has been selected by Pakistan Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and this selection has to be ratified by the country’s President Arif Alvi.
“The President has 15 days to confirm the recommendation as per the 1973 constitution in vogue. Former Prime Minister Imran Khan is already being quoted in Pak media that the President would consult him in the matter as he is from Imran’s political party PTI. For the sake of stability in a nuclear armed crisis ridden neighbor it is hoped the vexed issue of the replacement for Gen Qamar Bajwa does not get further attenuated from the farce it has already become,” Col Ravi Nair (Retd), an independent analyst and writer on Strategic issues, explains to Financial Express Online.
According to reports, Information Minister Marriyum Aurangzeb of Pakistan, Lt Gen Sahir Shamshad Mirza will be the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee (CJCSC). Both officers have been promoted to four star generals.
The Pakistan Army had sent the names of six top Lt Generals for appointments. On Wednesday (Nov 24) the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) announced that it had received the summary from the Ministry of Defence for the appointments of the COAS and CJCSC.
Who was in contention for the post of COAS?
Besides Besides Lt General Asim Munir, there Lt General Mohammad Amir (Commander Gujranwala Corps); Lt General Faiz Hamid (Commander Bahawalpur Corps); Lt General Sahir Shamshad Mirza (Commander 10 Corps), Lt General Azhar Abbas (Chief of General Staff), and Lt General Nauman Mehmood (National Defence University President).
Who Is Lt General Syed Asim Munir?
Lt Gen Munir is considered as a close aide of General Bajwa. Under the outgoing Chief, as a Brigadier he commanded troops in the Force Command Northern Areas. Gen Bajwa was at that time Commander X Corps.
In 2017 Lt Gen Munir was appointed as Director General of Military Intelligence and he was made the Inter-Services Intelligence chief in October 2019.
His term as ISI Chief however was short lived and within eight months he was then replaced by Lt Gen Faiz Hamid. All this happened under the government of former Prime Minister Imran Khan.
Before being moved to the General Headquarters as the Quartermaster General, he was posted as Gujranwala Corps commander for two years before.
Will his appointment impact Pakistan’s position globally?
Since the Army has always played a critical role in the country’s domestic and foreign politics, his appointment is likely to impact Pakistan’s relations with neighbouring countries like India and Afghanistan under Taliban 2.0, and also its pivot towards China or the US.
Sharing his views with Financial Express Online, Indian Army Veteran Maj Gen Jagatbir Singh (Retd) says: “Lieutenant General Syed Asim Munir of the Frontier Force, who commanded the Gujranwala Corps from 17 June 2019 to 6 October 2021. He was also in the news for having the shortest tenure of eight months as the DG ISI when he was replaced by Lieutenant General Faiz has been picked by Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif but Imran Khan will no doubt feel that his neutrality is affected due to the Sharif’ s involvement in the selection process. His appointment now will be ratified by the President which will be a formality.”
“He is from the 17th course of the Officers Training School in Mangla where he was awarded the Sword of Honour and was commissioned in the 23rd Battalion of the Frontier Force Regiment. He has served as Director General military Intelligence, commanded the Northern Areas of Pakistan and is currently the Quartermaster General. After General Ashfaq Kayani he will be the next Army Chief to have held the appointment of DG ISI and after two Chiefs from the Baloch Regiment, he is like General Raheel Sharif from the Frontier Force. The last officer who was not from the infantry was General Pervez Musharraf,” Gen Singh explains.
According to him, “The COAS’ appointment has been central to Pakistani politics and the role of the military in Pakistani politics has also been discussed and in great detail. This is not just because of the political instability and the aggressive campaign by the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf, but also because of the economic crisis.”
Pakistan and China
“With great power comes great responsibility, and there is no doubt that he faces both domestic and external challenges. While there will be no let up in the modernisation of the Pakistan Army and its close relationship and increasing collusively with China , his first task will be to contend with the beating the image the Pakistani Army has taken due to the utterances of Imran Khan regarding their involvement in driving Pakistani policies and politics as also corruption. There is a reputational crisis that needs to be addressed,” Gen Jagatbir Singh adds.
Says Col Nair: “Lt Gen Munir will take over from General Qamar Javed Bajwa when the latter retires on 29 Nov 2022. He commanded Pak XXX Corps at Gujranwala between June 2019 and Oct 2021 when he was transferred to GHQ as the QuarterMaster General. Prior to that he had been DGISI for eight months and was abruptly shifted to allow then PM Imran Khan to appoint his favored Lt Gen Faiz Hameed as the DG ISI. He had also held office as the DGMI between Dec 2016 and Oct 2018 and was instrumental in enforcing the agreement with India on following the ceasefire, a policy supported by Gen Bajwa. He is the first Pak COAS designate who has held both the offices of the DG MI and DG ISI in his career. Being a Gen Bajwa portage, it is hoped that under him Pak would concentrate on stabilizing its internal affairs along with its economy and it lives up to the claims made by its outgoing Chief that the Pak Army would be apolitical and devote itself only to defending the territorial integrity of Pakistan.”