By Sardar Khan Niazi
Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif has appointed Lt. General Syed Asim Munir as the new Chief of Army Staff. The development follows months of nationwide hype and speculation over who will get the top army post.
In a change of command ceremony at GHQ Rawalpindi on 29 November i.e. Tuesday, fifty-seven-year-old Lieutenant General Syed Asim Munir Ahmad Shah, the senior-most officer among the nominees for Chief of Army Staff, will replace General Qamar Javed Bajwa.
Lt. Gen. Asim Munir will get a promotion to the four-star rank of General, for which he got the ceremonial assent of President Arif Alvi before he receives the ‘Malacca Gold’ swagger stick or ‘baton of command’ from his predecessor.
Famous for his professionalism and no-nonsense attitude, the nation is optimistic that he will exhibit and ensure institutional neutrality, especially in political affairs. We hope he will be able to lower the country’s political high temperature and bring back the military’s integrity and institutional cohesion.
An assorted team of rogues and unprincipled actors who put political relationships and maybe personal desires over national interest and institutional discipline are apparently there. General Munir will have to tackle them with a strong hand.
The new COAS has got quite a lot on his plate. His new job is no soft option. He will also have his work cut out for him in the national security domain. With a Hindu chauvinist BJP government in India, challenges are arising. India has recently threatened to reclaim Azad Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan by military force, inviting a stiff rebuke from the ISPR.
Pakistan’s eastern border, however, is calmer and more secure than its border with Afghanistan: General Munir will have to contend with a resurgent TTP and an increasingly belligerent Taliban who attack Pakistani border positions at will.
With his vast experience in intelligence matters, he will be dealing with the sub-conventional threats to internal security compounded by extremist narratives and intolerant attitudes now deeply embedded within Pakistani society.
A major part of the political discord in Pakistan for the past twelve months circled around this all-important posting, which appears to have been settled for now.
The gossip mill has finally stopped circling, and the results are in. The games that started, and entered a power play phase after Imran Khan’s removal from the office of Prime Minister in a vote of no confidence, have seemingly ended.
Although PTI has permission for the Faizabad sit-in, the Faizabad flyover is already sealed; severe traffic jam on roads leading to Islamabad is visible, as several paths remain blocked. Federal Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah is raising alarm over security ahead of PTI’s long march. Interior minister urges PTI chief to postpone rally, return to parliament
As Faizabad is the main highway, a central artery. Closing it will severely affect traffic, creating unnecessary problems for residents of the twin cities of Rawalpindi and Islamabad. Considering Imran Khan’s recent change of heart and simmering down on key chatting points shows the backdoor channel talks may have already begun.
His new stance that neither the US nor the establishment was involved in a grand conspiracy resulting in his ouster indicates that he is fulfilling certain prerequisites before his demands may be considered. New COAS will approach the PTI very differently. Imran Khan has said he will turn around with nothing less than an election date, preferably an immediate one.
This does not suit the PDM, particularly the PML-N which has to contend with a fledgling economy that is at the mercy of bilateral loans but more importantly the IMF that has demanded the federal government to take some very unpopular inflationary decisions that will hurt politically, especially in an election year.