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Pakistan headed for uncertain times with naming of spymaster Gen Asim Munir as Army chief

He will be first-ever Pak army chief to have headed both ISI, military intelligence

ADDITION Pakistan Army Chief Lt. Gen. Syed Asim Munir | AP

Pakistan Army’s senior-most officer after current chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa’s scheduled retirement on November 29—Lieutenant General Asim Munir—has been named for the most powerful job in Pakistan.

The chief-in-waiting is now posted as the Quartermaster General with the core mandate of ensuring supplies for the 6,00,000-lakh-strong army.

If Lt Gen Munir assumes the Army chief’s job, he will be the first ever to have headed both the main military spy wings in Pakistan. He was the director general of military intelligence as well as the ISI chief.

Gen Munir will also be the first-ever COAS (chief of the army staff) to have won the prestigious sword of honour award at the Pakistan Military Academy at Abbottabad’s Kakul.

A tweet by Pakistan Information Minister Marriyum Aurangzeb on Thursday read: “The PM of Pakistan Muhammad Shahbaz Sharif has decided to appoint Lt. Gen. Sahir Shamshad Mirza as the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Lt. Gen. Syed Asim Munir as the Chief of the Army Staff using the constitutional authority. A summary of this has been sent to the President of Pakistan.”

On Thursday, the Pakistan union cabinet forwarded the two names to President Arif Alvi, who will have to send them back to the cabinet giving his stamp of approval.

“President Alvi can also sit on the recommendation for 15 days before sending it back to the cabinet for reconsideration. And when the cabinet again sends it back to the President, the latter can again sit on it for a maximum of 10 days. Basically, the Pakistan President can spoil the party for 25 days,” said Dr Ashok Behuria, an expert on Pakistan and a senior fellow at the Manohar Parrikar IDSA, a leading Indian think-tank.

It is also possible that Gen Munir’s assumption of office may not be smooth. Pakistan’s main opposition leader Imran Khan may queer the pitch if he wants to because it was Lt Gen Munir, as ISI chief in 2019, who brought upon the investigation to the corruption by then PM Imran Khan’s wife. It led to Gen Munir’s removal from the ISI.

With general elections in Pakistan likely in the next four to six months and Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party widely expected to win, Khan may again be pitted against Gen Munir. Unless the duo decide to bury the hatchet and move on.

The implications of Lt Gen Munir’s next appointment will not be of much consequence to India as not much change for the better is expected under the charge of the man during whose watch as ISI chief, the terrorist car bombing had taken place in Pulwama. The February 14, 2019, attack had killed 44 Indian security personnel.

As an old hand on the Kashmir issue with a considerable professional military and intelligence experience, Gen Munir is likely to continue with the same inflexible Pakistani position of seeking to resolve the Kashmir issue by adhering to the UN resolutions. 

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