Who Is Former 'Spymaster' Lt Gen Asim Munir, Pakistan's Next Army Chief?

Lt Gen Munir, who has previously served as chief of two most powerful intelligence agencies - the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and the Military Intelligence (MI), will be following Gen Qamar Jawed Bajwa in the key position.

Pakistan's new army chief Lt Gen Asim Munir has been a close aide of the incumbent COAS.

Former 'spymaster' and ISI chief Lt General Asim Munir has been named the new Army chief of Pakistan by Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif who made the announcement on Thursday, ending speculation over who would be heading most powerful position in the coup-prone nation. Munir will follow outgoing General Qamar Javed Bajwa, who is set to retire later this month on November 29 after a six-year term. Bajwa has the distinction of holding two consecutive three-year terms. Gen Bajwa, 61, was appointed as the army chief in 2016 for a three-year term. He was given a three-year extension by the Khan government in 2019.

Who is Lt Gen Munir?

Lt Gen Munir has served as chief of two most powerful intelligence agencies - the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and the Military Intelligence (MI) - but his stint as the spy chief at the ISI was the shortest ever as he was replaced by Lt Gen Faiz Hamid within eight months on the insistence of then Prime Minister Imran Khan in 2019. 

The senior-most general in Pakistani army,  Munir was commissioned into the Frontier Force Regiment and has been a close aide of the incumbent COAS ever since he commanded troops in the Force Command Northern Areas as a brigadier under Gen Bajwa, who was then the Commander X Corps.

Although he was promoted to the rank of two-star general in September 2018, he took charge two months later. As a result, his four-year tenure as Lt Gen will end on November 27. But with his appointment as COAS, he would get a three-year extension in the service.
Munir was later appointed chief of Military Intelligence in early 2017, and in October next year was made the ISI chief. He was then posted as Gujranwala Corps commander, a position he held for two years, before being moved to the GHQ as Quartermaster General.

Information Minister Marriyum Aurangzeb announced on Twitter that Prime Minister Sharif has named Lt Gen Munir as the new army chief. Lt Gen Sahir Shamshad Mirza had been picked as the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee (CJCSC).

Both officers have also been promoted to four-star generals.

What is the significance of Army chief's role in Pakistan?

In Pakistan, where the military wields considerable power in matters of security and foreign policy, the person in charge of the military wields considerable power in the nation.

The CJCSC is the highest authority in the hierarchy of the armed forces but the key powers including mobilisation of troops, appointments and transfers lie with the COAS which makes the person holding the post the most powerful in the military. 

The powerful Army, which has ruled Pakistan for more than half of its 75-plus years of existence, has hitherto wielded considerable power in matters of security and foreign policy.

The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party earlier quoted Imran Khan as saying that "when the summary comes, I and the President of Pakistan will act according to the constitution and laws."

The Imran Khan factor 

The appointment coincides with a dispute between the military and Imran Khan, who blames the army for playing a role in his ouster in April this year through a no-confidence vote.

Khan's close aide and former information minister Fawad Chaudhry said on Wednesday that "until we see the conduct of the new army chief, we cannot say anything about it, but the role of the army in politics in the last 6 months is controversial, this role will need to be changed."
The high drama around the key appointment has not gone unnoticed around the world as the army chief of a nuclear army, which is also one of the biggest, of the sixth biggest strategically placed country, when it is also facing political turmoil and economic meltdown, is by no means an ordinary affair. 

(With inputs from PTI)