President Arif Alvi receives Lt. Gen. Asim Munir at the President House in Islamabad on Thursday. AFP
Tariq Butt, CorrespondentIn a major development, Pakistan Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif on Thursday chose Lt-Gen Syed Asim Munir, a Hafiz-e-Quran, as the next chief of army staff and Lt Gen Sahir Shashad as the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee, ending a prolonged speculation regarding the key appointment of the military chief.
The two generals were the senior most in the list of six officers forwarded to the prime minister by the defence minister.
Hours after receiving the summary from the prime minister, President Arif Alvi touched down in Lahore for a meeting with his party chief, Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan for consultation.
Shahbaz Sharif receives Asim Munir at the PM House in Islamabad. AFP
The appointments were announced earlier in the day by Information Minister Marriyum Aurangzeb on Twitter — a tweet which was deleted and swiftly put up again — capping weeks of intense speculation on the matter.
In her tweet, she said the premier made the choice while exercising his constitutional authority.
She said the summary for appointments has been sent for president’s approval, Defence Minister Khawaja Asif hoped that the president will not make the appointments controversial.
People watch a news television broadcast of the nomination of Syed Asim Munir (on bottom R television 2R), at a market in Karachi. AFP
The Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee (CJCSC) is an inter-services forum that works for coordination among the three armed forces. The CJCSC also serves as the principal military adviser to the prime minister and the National Command Authority.
Asif said the matter had been decided according to the law and the Constitution, calling on the nation to refrain from viewing it through a "political lens.”
He said that the president should endorse the premier’s advice so that a "controversy may not arise.” "This will also help our country and the economy to get on track. Currently, everything is at a standstill.” He expressed the same in a tweet, saying that the advice had been forwarded to the president. He went on to say that it would now be a test for former premier Imran Khan where he could either strengthen the institution responsible for defending the country or make it controversial.
"This is also a test for President Alvi, whether he will follow political advice or the constitutional and legal advice,” he said. "As the Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, it is his duty to protect the country from political conflicts,” he said about Alvi.
Outgoing army chief Qamar Javed Bajwa was originally supposed to retire in 2019. However, his tenure was extended for three years by then-prime minister Imran Khan in Aug 2019, just three months before he was set to retire. Despite speculation about him seeking another extension, Bajwa had indicated several months ago that he planned to retire this year.
Gen Munir joined the Pakistan army from the Mangla Officers Training School programme and then became a commissioned officer in the Frontier Force Regiment. He commanded the Northern Areas Force as a brigadier and was appointed the director-general of the Military Intelligence in early 2017. In 2018, he was appointed as the director-general of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI).
Following this, he was posted as Corps Commander Gujranwala for two years. Currently, he is serving as the Quartermaster at the General Headquarters (GHQ).
He will become the first army chief who has headed both — the Military Intelligence and the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI). He will also be the first army chief who has been awarded the Sword of Honour.
When he was posted in Madinah, Saudi Arabai, as a lieutenant colonel, the military officer became Hafiz-e-Quran (a person who has memorised the Quran) at the age of 38.
Gen Shamshad hails from the Sindh Regiment and served as the director-general of the military operations under former army chief Raheel Sharif. He also supervised the operations against terrorists in North Waziristan and was part of the coordination group that oversaw negotiations with Afghanistan.
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