Islamabad, Pakistan – Prime Minister of Pakistan Shehbaz Sharif Designated Lieutenant General Asim Munir As the new army chief, ended the days of uncertainty that gripped the nation.
Munir, whose nomination was approved by President Arif Alvi on Thursday evening, will take over the command of the 600,000-strong nuclear-armed force on November 29 when incumbent General Qamar Javed Bajwa retires after six years in office.
Lt Gen Sahir Shamshad was nominated for the post of Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee.
‘Sword of Honor’ winner
Munir Mangla joined the Pakistan Army through the Officers Training School (OTS) program, where he won the prestigious Sword of Honor, awarded to the best performing cadet.
He commanded a division that overlooked Pakistan’s northern areas, including the disputed region of Kashmir, where he worked closely with Bajwa, who then led the Pakistan Army’s elite X Corps.
Munir, who currently serves as Quartermaster General at Army Headquarters in Rawalpindi, is considered an officer with an “impeccable reputation” within the Pakistan Army.
He was made the chief of Military Intelligence (MI) in 2017, the unit mandated to look into the internal affairs of the military. Following his promotion to three-star general the next year, he was given charge of the country’s premier spy agency, the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI).
However, his eight-month tenure as chief of the ISI is the shortest in the history of the military. Political commentators said he was removed following a rift with former Prime Minister Imran Khan.
“Given his tenure as chief of intelligence [ISI] The two reportedly fell out after the PM was berated by Khan, PTI [Khan’s Tehreek-e-Insaf party] They believe Munir could be tilted against them,” Mohammad Faisal Khan, an Islamabad-based security analyst, told Al Jazeera.
“Thus, the government feared that Khan, through President Alvi, would attempt to jeopardize the process and make Munir’s selection controversial before it could actually take effect,” he added. Alvi is a founding member of PTI.
A military source told Al Jazeera that Munir has a “clear line of thinking” and is considered non-political in his approach.
“He is a rare officer in the sense that he has headed both MI and ISI. He is the first army chief to have headed both the intelligence agencies.
“The MI experience will help him see the internal dynamics of the military, while the ISI experience will serve him well in the future for a global outlook.”
Abdul Basit, a Singapore-based Pakistan analyst, said that contrary to objections from Khan’s PTI party, Munir is a professional soldier who will uphold the institution. away from politics,
He told Al Jazeera, “It is a fact that the military wants to leave politics, but whether politics will leave the military is a question to consider.”
Basit said Munir had previously worked in Saudi Arabia, one of Pakistan’s key allies.
Munir was deputed to Saudi Arabia as part of close defense cooperation with the Pakistan Army.
“Being a familiar face in Riyadh may have been one of the factors that influenced his appointment to the top job,” he said.
‘Proved myself worthy’
Retired army officer Mohammad Zeeshan said Munir was his senior in the army and had held key operational and instructional appointments.
Zeeshan, currently the director general of the Center for Peace, Security and Development Studies think-tank in Islamabad, said Munir’s career postings showed that he was groomed for senior positions throughout his career.
“Based on his postings and the results of his courses, it is very clear that he proved himself to deserve where he is today,” he told Al Jazeera.
Zeeshan said that when Bajwa was the army chief, Munir had served as the MI head and performed well.
“However, as the head of the ISI, he was a bit unfortunate to be caught in a changing political climate. But the fact that he walked away so gracefully when he was asked to leave, says a lot about his maturity.” Tells something,” Zeeshan said.
On the challenges ahead for Munir, the retired Brigadier said these are difficult times in the country.
‘In my opinion, his biggest challenge will be to restore the country’s trust and confidence in the military,’ he said.