Lt-Gen Asim Munir new COAS, Lt-Gen Sahir Shamshad CJCSC

Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif on Thursday nominated Lt-Gen Asim as the new chief of army staff (COAS) and sent the summary to President Arif Alvi.

Also, he picked Lt-Gen Sahir Shamshad Mirza as the chairman joint chiefs of staff of committee (CJCSC) – thus choosing the two senior-most officers for the soon-to-be vacant top slots.

The decision was announced by Information Minister Marriyum Aurangzeb in a tweet.

Separately, Defence Minister Khawaja Asif said the advice was sent to the president. “Now it is test for Imran Khan whether he strengthens the institution responsible for the country’s defence or controversial,” he noted.

Khawaja Asif added that it was also a trial for the president if he would follow the political advice or the legal and constitutional one. Being the military’s supreme commander, it was his duty to protect the institution from political disputes.

Lt-Gen Asim and Lt-Gen Sahir are currently serving as Quarter Master General at GHQ and Commander 10 Corps respectively.

It is important to note that Lt-Gen Asim Munir was scheduled to retire on November 27, two days before the retirement date of Chief of Army Staff Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa.

However, whenever a lieutenant general is promoted to the rank of four-star general, his service period is automatically extended by three years from his date of retirement.    

Imran Khan and Arif Alvi

The defence minister was referring to the PTI chairman’s Wednesday’s statement in which he had claimed that Alvi would make a decision on the much-awaited appointment in military after consulting him.

Imran said he was in touch with the president about the summary, as many have feared that the president may withhold or return the document back to the Prime Minister’s Office.

He made these remarks during an interview with the ARY News. “Won’t my party’s president contact me?” Imran questioned.

“I do not trust the intentions of Nawaz Sharif,” he said and added that the PML-N supremo wanted to bring such an army chief who would end his [Imran’s] politics as well as that of the PTI.

He, however, in the same interview took a contradictory position, saying he had no interest in who would be the new army chief as claimed that he neither had to withdraw corruption cases nor wanted to win elections. Anyone on merit should be promoted to the slot, he added.  

It is important to note that Imran, when he was the prime minister, had removed Lt-Asim Munir from the position of ISI chief after he reportedly informed him about the alleged corruption of his [Imran’s] family members.

Gen Bajwa

Imran’s stance came as Gen Bajwa on Wednesday evening blasted the PTI chairman without naming him.

He said a fake narrative was orchestrated and spread to create instability and confusion in the country. The no-confidence motion was constitutional process which should have been welcomed but instead the army was targeted over the issue, he said.

The army chief mentioned that a “false narrative was created”, from which “an escape is now being attempted”, as called for promoting a democratic culture in Pakistan.

Addressing a ceremony at GHQ Rawalpindi in connection with the on the Defence and Martyrs Day, he said military’s role in politics was unconstitutional and added that the army had decided last year that they would not get involved in politics.

Gen Bajwa assured the people that the army was following the decision and would continue doing so in the future. Those thinking about dividing the nation and army would not succeed, he made it clear during his speech.

How did we reach here?

The outgoing chief of army chief was originally supposed to retire in 2019. However, his tenure was extended for three years Imran, the by then-prime minister, in August 2019, three months before he was set to retire.

Despite speculation about him seeking another extension, Gen Bajwa had indicated several months ago that he planned to retire this year.

His retirement plan was later confirmed by the ISPR on at least a couple of occasions and the general had himself in the last few months twice made it clear that he had no intentions to carry on — once during his visit to the United States and then again, while speaking at the National Security Workshop at National Defence University.

The next army chief’s appointment is stated to be one of the major reasons behind the ongoing political crisis engulfing the country which began earlier this year following the tabling of a no-trust motion against Imran.

Doubts about Bajwa’s retirement plan had been so strong that Imran, when faced with the vote of no-confidence, suspected that the political move against him was linked to Gen Bajwa’s impending retirement. He had, therefore, offered an indefinite extension to Gen Bajwa in a bid to pre-empt the then opposition’s vote against him, as per a recent presser by senior military officials.

Gen Bajwa finally started his farewell visits to formations on Nov 1 with a visit to the Army Air Defence Command and followed up the next day with a visit to Armed Forces Strategic Forces Command. Since then, he quietly toured a number of formations.

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