Pakistan On Thursday, former intelligence chief Lieutenant-General Syed Asim Munir was named army chief in the South Asian country, ending weeks of speculation over an appointment that comes amid a heated debate over the military’s influence on public life.
Munir, the country’s top general and former head of the Internal Intelligence Agency (ISI), will take over from Army Commander Major General Qamar Javed Bajwawho will retire on November 29 after six years in a normally three-year position.
His promotion, endorsed by Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif and approved by President Arif Alvi on Thursday, means Monir will now oversee Pakistan’s nuclear weapons operations.
Pakistan’s military is often accused of meddling in the politics of a country that has seen numerous coups and ruled by generals for long periods since its formation in 1947, so the appointment of new army leaders is often a highly politicized matter.
Mounir’s appointment could be controversial with supporters of the former prime minister Omran KhanWho was he Fired He was removed from office in April after losing the support of key political allies and the military amid accusations that he had mismanaged the economy.
Pakistan Election Commission last month Khan was denied political office for five years for their involvement in “corrupt practices”.
Munir was removed from his office at the ISI during Khan’s tenure, and the former prime minister alleged – without evidence – that the Pakistani military and Sharif had conspired with the United States to remove him from power. After, after Khan was injured in an armed attack At a political rally in early November, he also accused a senior military intelligence officer – without evidence – of plotting his assassination.
Both Pakistani military and US officials denied Khan’s allegations.
Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party congratulated Monir on his appointment in a statement on Thursday accusing the military of a major role in the democratic process.
“The people of Pakistan expect that their armed forces, while dealing with a range of external threats, will remain far from the politics of internal affairs and that the rights of political parties will not be infringed,” the statement said.
The statement also emphasized the movement’s demand for early elections. Khan is scheduled to hold a rally on Saturday in the city of Rawalpindi to echo that call in what will be his first public appearance since his shooting.
Khan aside, the new army chief will have plenty to do, as he will enter office at a time when Pakistan – in addition to a growing economic crisis – is also facing the fallout from war. The worst floods in its history. He will also have to navigate the country’s strained relationship with neighboring India.
On Wednesday, outgoing army chief Bajwa said the army is often criticized despite being busy “serving the country”. He said the main reason for this was the military’s historic “interference” in Pakistani politics, which he called “unconstitutional”.
He said that in February of this year, the military had decided “not to interfere in politics” and was “insistent” on sticking to this position.
Pakistan, which has a population of 220 million, is governed by four military rulers and has seen three military coups since its formation. No prime minister has ever completed a full five-year term under the current constitution of 1973.
Uzair Yunus, director of the Pakistan Initiative at the Atlantic Council, said that the military “has lost a lot of its reputation,” and that the new president has many battles ahead of him.
“Historically, an army commander needs three months to assume office, and the new commander may not have this privilege,” Yunus said. “With continued political polarization, there may be a temptation to get involved again.”