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Lt General Asim Munir set to take over as Pak Army chief after President Alvi endorses appointment

Pakistani President Arif Alvi raises the pitch against India

Avoiding controversy, Pakistan’s President Arif Alvi has endorsed the appointment of Lieutenant General Asim Munir as the next Army Chief. Gen. Munir will take over his new assignment on November 29, the day when incumbent Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa retires.

Simultaneously, Lt, General Sahir Shamshad Mirza, an Afghan specialist who played a key role in operations against Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, will be appointed to the more ceremonial post of the Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee (CJCSC).

Following the decision, the security staff of the Chief of Army Staff (COAS) and CJCSC designate arrived at the President’s House ahead of the important meeting of the military leaders with Alvi.

President Alvi, who belongs to Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, took the decision following a meeting earlier this afternoon in Lahore with the former Prime Minister. Thereafter he signed the summary sent to him by Pakistan’s Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif recommending the appointment of the two top officers as the COAS and CJCSC.

Clearly, the move shows Khan’s decision not to go in for a head on confrontation with Pakistan’s powerful military. As it is, under Pakistan’s constitution, the appointment of the two officers was inevitable. President Alvi, exercising his constitutional authority, could delay the appointment for a maximum of 25 days.

It now remains to be seen if the decision not to obstruct the appointment process could have an implication on fulfilling Khan’s key demand—of holding early elections. Khan’s popularity appears to have risen as demonstrated by recent provincial election results and surveys.

Earlier “Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, using his Constitutional authority, has decided to appoint Lt General Asim Munir as the army chief and Lt General Sahir Shamshad Mirza as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee (CJCSC),” Information Minister Marriyum Aurangzeb had confirmed.

According to tradition, the final appointment by the Prime Minister is preceded by the PM’s ‘informal consultation’ with the outgoing army chief, his own perceptions and his discussions with his closest advisors. The outgoing army chief, in this case Gen. Bajwa, during his ‘informal consultation’ with the prime minister, provides personal input on who he thinks should succeed him out of the names listed in the summary.

Who are the new appointees?

Lt.Gen. Asim Munir was the senior most, but his tenure was to end on November 27. But outgoing Army Chief Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa decided to include his name among the six contenders for the coveted post. The other five names included Lt. Gen. Sahir Shamshad Mirza, who has been appointed as the Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee (CJCSC),  Lt. Gen. Azhar Abbas, Lt. Gen. Nauman Mehmood, Lt. Gen. Faiz Hameed and Lt. Gen. Muhammad Amir.

According to Pakistani daily Dawn, Gen. Munir was commissioned in the  Frontier Force Regiment. He has been a close aide of the incumbent COAS ever since he commanded troops in the Force Command Northern Areas as a brigadier under Gen Bajwa, who was then Commander X Corps. He was later appointed DG Military Intelligence in early 2017, and in October next year, made the ISI chief. However, he was soon replaced by Lt.Gen. Faiz Hameed on the insistence of former PM Imran Khan. He was posted as Gujranwala Corps commander, from where he was moved to the GHQ as Quartermaster General two years later.

Lt. Gen, Sahir Shamshad Mirza: He hails from the Sindh Regiment. Lt. Gen. Mirza rose into prominence as director-general of military operations (DGMO)  when former Gen. Raheel Sharif was COAS.  In that role, he supervised the military operation against the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) in North Waziristan. Besides, he was part of the core team in the Quadrilateral Coordination Group (QCG) that brokered intra-Afghan talks that included Pakistan, China, Afghanistan and the United States.

Apprehensions about the possibility of Alvi obstructing the appointment arose after Khan told a press conference Khan said that the President will “definitely” consult him as soon as the summary for the appointment of next army chief reaches his office.

“President Dr Arif Alvi will definitely consult me on the summary for the appointment of army chief and take a decision as per the law and Constitution. I am head of the party that Dr Alvi belongs to,” he observed.

On Wednesday, Khan claimed that whoever is appointed as the next army chief by PML-N supremo Nawaz Sharif will become “controversial” from the first day.

The former Prime Minister added that he did not doubt [the credibility of] whoever would be chosen as the army chief, saying that he instead was suspicious of the intentions of those who would appoint him.

“If Nawaz Sharif thinks he can bring his army chief and get us beaten by the establishment then the nation will stand against it.”

Khan had earlier objected to Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif’s visit to London where, during a meeting with Nawaz, the appointment of the next army chief was discussed.

Also Read: Will Imran Khan campaign against Gen. Asim Munir’s appointment as Pak Army Chief?