General Munir’s appointment as army chief bodes well for Pakistan – The Diplomat

The Pulse | Politics | South Asia

The civilian leadership seems to have recognized that merit and seniority, not political considerations, should guide the selection of the army chief.

In this photo released by the Office of the Prime Minister of Pakistan, newly appointed Army Chief General Syed Asim Munir, left, meets with Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif in Islamabad, Pakistan on Thursday November 24, 2022.

Source: Office of the Prime Minister of Pakistan via APAdvertisement

Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif on Thursday appointed Lt. Gen. Asim Munir as the new Chief of Staff of the Army (COAS). The decision comes after weeks of intense speculation and alleged power struggles between political parties to choose the potential candidate for the country’s most powerful office.

“The process has been completed in accordance with the law and the constitution,” Defense Minister Khawaja Muhammad Asif told reporters in Islamabad after Sharif made the announcement.

Munir, the senior of six generals being considered for the position, will replace Lt. Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa, who will retire on November 29 after six years in command of the army.

The new chief has had many accomplishments. A recipient of the Sword of Honor of the 17th Course of the Officer Training School in Mangla, he was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant General in September 2018. Previously, he was Director General of Military Intelligence (MI) and Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), the country’s two top intelligence agencies. He rose through sheer dedication and hard work and is well respected at the base of the institution.

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Munir’s election shows that the country’s civilian leadership has learned, albeit the hard way, that merit and seniority should be their guiding principle when selecting the army chief, rather than political considerations, which have proven costly in the past . When political leadership makes a decision based on merit and seniority, it not only increases their own credibility, but also helps solve some structural problems of an institution where distinction and excellence are highly valued by the grassroots.

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Munir’s appointment is an indication that the military’s intent to stick to its constitutional role and create space for democratic functioning in the country will mature in the coming months and years. “The civil-military leadership could not have chosen a more professional and pro-democracy general from among the current officers,” a government official told The Diplomat on condition of anonymity. “The appointment bodes well for Pakistan’s democratic forces.”

The crucial appointment offers a new opportunity for all of the country’s key stakeholders to bury the hatchet and move forward in Pakistan’s best interests. The manner in which political parties worked together on Munir’s appointment this week seems to have taken the military’s message that “the time has come for political pressure groups to put aside their egos and move forward” well with civilian leadership has been recorded.

The cooperation shown by the political parties in Munir’s appointment is arguably the first time Pakistan’s Tehreek-e-Insaaf leader and former Prime Minister Imran Khan, who was ousted from office by a no-confidence vote in April, has shown a willingness to work with the current government to fulfill a constitutional duty without much drama.

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Still, the appointment is a major defeat for Khan, who has campaigned for months for the decision, trying to undermine the outgoing army chief and his institution’s stated determination to stay out of politics.

It’s unclear how Munir will react if Khan continues to attack his institution to attack his political base. It is clear that the military leadership is running out of patience with Khan’s baseless propaganda. The new army chief must not leave room for this, especially if it is at the expense of the stability and internal cohesion of his institution.

Munir has little time to settle into the job. He has cut his job as Pakistan faces a deepening political and financial crisis. Militant groups are knocking on Pakistan’s Afghan border again, and Baloch extremists are making renewed efforts to undermine the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). The general will have to deal with India, which is working around the clock to undermine Pakistan’s interests around the world.

There are also numerous issues affecting Pakistan’s relations with the world that await his attention in the coming days and weeks.

Above all, Munir is to work to ensure that Pakistan receives the much-needed political stability that the country has been longing for for months. This is crucial at a time when Pakistan is facing an acute financial crisis and investors are looking for signs of stability before committing funds and investments.

Munir’s arrival will ease some of the concerns of investors, including those countries that are friendly with Pakistan but remain concerned about Islamabad’s prospects amid the ongoing political crisis in the country.