Explained: Why India should be wary of Pakistan’s new army chief Lt Gen Asim Munir
Lieutenant General Syed Asim Munir will replace General Qamar Javed Bajwa as Pakistan’s new army chief. Previously serving as the ISI chief, Munir has special knowledge on India and it was during his time that the Pulwama attack, which claimed the lives of 40 CRPF soldiers, took place
After months of speculation and discussions, Pakistan prime minister Shahbaz Sharif appointed Lieutenant General Syed Asim Munir as the Chief of Army Staff and Lt General Sahir Shamshad Mirza as the new chairman joint chiefs of staff committee.
The new was broken by Information Minister Marriyum Aurangzeb through an announcement on Twitter, saying the premier had made the choice while exercising his constitutional authority.
وزیراعظم پاکستان محمد شہباز شریف نے آئینی اختیار استعمال کرتے ہوئے لیفٹنٹ جنرل ساحر شمشاد مرزا کو چئیرمین جوائنٹ چیفس آف سٹاف اور لیفٹنٹ جنرل سید عاصم منیر کو چیف آف دی آرمی سٹاف مقرر کرنے کا فیصلہ کیا ہے۔ اس بابت سمری صدر پاکستان کو ارسال کر دی گئی ہے۔
— Marriyum Aurangzeb (@Marriyum_A) November 24, 2022
Lt General Munir, who has also been promoted to a four-star general, will succeed General Qamar Javed Bajwa, whose term is scheduled to end on 29 November.
As Pakistan army gets a new chief, here’s what we know about him.
Rise of Lt Gen Asim Munir
Lt Gen Munir is an outstanding officer. He began his career in the services after passing out of the Officers Training School (OTS) programme in Mangla and was commissioned into the Frontier Force Regiment, which has been integral part of the 1971 War, the Siachen conflict and the Kargil War.
In September 2018, he was promoted to the rank of a two-star general and was subsequently appointed as the new Director General of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI).
His stint at Pakistan’s spy agency was, however, short-lived, the shortest ever for Pakistan. He was replaced by Lt Gen Faiz Hamid within eight months on the insistence of then Prime Minister Imran Khan.
However, it was during his tenure as ISI chief that the 2019 Pulwama attack took place, which saw tensions peak between India and Pakistan. He also is considered to have considerable expertise in dealing with matters related to India following his stints as director general of military operations during 2015-18 and chief of general staff during 2019-21.
It was reported that Munir, who is known for his anti-corruption approach, had angered Khan as he had brought to the prime minister’s notice that the family of Khan’s wife, Bushra Bibi, was involved in corrupt practices.
Following his ouster from the ISI, he was posted to Gujranwala as Corps Commander of XXX Corps. It was from here that he was then moved to his present posting at GHQ, Rawalpindi where he serves as Quarter Master General.
Lt General Munir has also been the 2018 recipient of the Hilal-i-Imtiaz, which is Pakistan’s second-highest civilian award that is given to both civilians and military officers for “highest degree of service to the State and for services to international diplomacy.”
Close ties to Bajwa
The ascension of Lt Gen Munir to Pak army chief is in accordance with the senior-most principle.
He will be succeeding current army chief, General Qamar Javed Bajwa, who will end his six-year tenure (which included a single three-year extension) on 29 November.
Lt Gen Munir is said to be close to Bajwa. As a Brigadier, he was a commander in the Force Command Northern Areas (FCNA), at a time that Bajwa was commander of the X Corps. The FCNA falls under the command of the X Corps.
Importance of Lt Gen Munir
As head of the Pakistan army, Lt Gen Munir will be in charge of the world’s six largest force.
Moreover, the army holds undue influence over Pakistan and has staged three coups since independence in 1947.
Even during periods of civilian rule, the army chief has long been considered the real kingmaker and the appointment is freighted with huge political significance.
The army chief also has to handle multiple domestic security threats as well as the balance of power with arch-rival India, against who Pakistan has fought three wars.
India has been keeping a close watch on the appointment of the Pakistan army chief owing to the influence it wields over the country’s relations with other countries.
The new commander will have an impact on the two countries’ most contentious issue, Kashmir, a report by CNBC-TV18 explained.
General Bajwa as Pakistan army chief had authorised the restoration of the ceasefire agreement with India on the issue of the Line of Control in 2021. It is left to be seen if Lt General Munir will uphold Bajwa’s diktat or will he move Pakistan towards China or the US, in turn making it more dangerous for India.
With inputs from agencies
General Syed Asim Munir is the 11th chief of the Pakistan Army since the Islamist nation was carved out of erstwhile British India in 1947. He was preceded by General Qamar Javed Bajwa
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