Pakistan Names New Army Commander Amid Political Turmoil

Pakistani Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif has named the country's former spy chief as head of the military, the information minister said Thursday, ending months of speculation about the new appointment.
The new arm chief Syed Asim Munir
| Photo Credit: NPR

Pakistani Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif has nominated the former head of the Inter-Services Intelligence as head of the powerful military amid deepening political turmoil in the country.

This function was chaired by Sharif that involved his cabinet voting for General Asim Mun from a list of generals. The winning candidate will be replacing General Qamar Jawed Bajwa, set to retire next week. 

Defence Minister Khawaja Asif announced the decision in a post-meeting statement, saying it has already been sent to President Arif Alvi for his mandatory approval. Asif later confirmed to state-run radio that the president had approved the appointment.

Munir will take command of Pakistan’s nuclear-armed military from Bajwa next Tuesday at a ceremony at the general headquarters in the garrison city of Rawalpindi, adjacent to the capital, Islamabad.

As well as heading the ISI, Munir has commanded Pakistani troops in areas bordering Afghanistan and archrival India.

The nomination of the new military chief comes amid an intensified debate over the deepening interference of the institution in political affairs.

Pakistan has experienced four military coups against elected governments since gaining independence in 1947, leading to more than three decades of dictatorial rule.

“We hope the new leadership of the armed forces of Pakistan will play its constitutional rights and democracy in the country are strengthened, and people’s rights to elect a new leadership through fresh elections would be recognized,” the PTI said in a statement. 

Pakistani politicians have long accused the military of orchestrating the removal of elected governments that do not fall into line with the powerful institution, particularly when it comes to making foreign and security policies or questioning the military’s commercial interests.

The ongoing deadlock between the government of Sharif and Khan’s party has deepened the political turmoil at a time when Pakistan is struggling to deal with the aftermath of last summer’s devastating floods ahead of cold winter weather. Thousands are still living in makeshift homes following the record-shattering floods that killed 1,739 people and affected 33 million.

Khan has also claimed that his removal from power was unlawful and a conspiracy by Bajwa and his political opponents orchestrated by the United States, a charge denied by both Washington and Sharif.

Khan remains the most popular leader in Pakistan and his removal, with his Pakistan Tehreek-e-insaf party, swept national and provincial by-elections in recent weeks.

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