PM Shahbaz names Lt Gen Asim Munir as new army chief, Lt Gen Sahir Shamshad Mirza as CJCSC

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Islamabad: The federal government Thursday morning announced that Lieutenant General Asim Munir would become Pakistan’s next army chief, replacing General Qamar Javed Bajwa.

Information Minister Marriyum Aurangzeb confirmed on Twitter that Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, using his Constitutional right, had also appointed Lt Gen Sahir Shamshad Mirza as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee (CJCSC).

The information minister added that the summary for the appointments had been sent to President Arif Alvi for ratification. Both the officers picked for the slots were the senior-most military officials.

The decision was announced after PM Shehbaz held a federal cabinet meeting earlier today to mull over the high-profile appointments after the allied parties authorized him to pick the officers for the top slots.

Lt Gen Munir, who was also Pakistan’s chief spy, will take over from outgoing COAS General Qamar Javed Bajwa, who retires later this month after a six-year term. COAS Gen Bajwa, who was appointed as the army chief in 2016, will retire on November 29. He was initially set to hang up his boots in 2019, but the PTI-led government gave him a three-year extension.

Speaking to the media after the meeting of the federal cabinet, Defence Minister Khawaja Asif also confirmed that the summary had been sent to the president.

“All the matters have been settled in line with the Constitution of Pakistan and hopefully the president will not create a controversy,” Asif said. The minister expected President Alvi to approve the premier’s advice as per Constitution and law. He expressed hope that the said appointments would not be entertained on political advice. The minister refused to comment on PTI Chairman Imran Khan’s consultation with President Alvi over the matter. He said that he has tweeted on the matter. He said that the Pakistan Air Force, navy, and army shouldn’t be made controversial. A detailed press release regarding the development will be issued, Asif added.

Before the media talk, Asif had said in his tweet, saying that it was now a test for 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 constitutional and legal advice. As the Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, he must protect the country from political conflicts,” Asif stressed in his tweet.

Following the news about PM’s pick for COAS and CJCSC, PTI’s official shared a tweet quoting Imran Khan as saying “when the summary comes, I and the president of Pakistan will act according to the Constitution and laws”. Khan had been stressing that President Alvi was in contact with him and would consult him on the appointment of the top two slots.

“I am in contact with the president over the summary related to a key appointment,” the PTI chief had told a private TV channel earlier.

“I am in touch with him (the president). He will discuss everything with me. The prime minister goes to an absconder so I am a party head. He will absolutely discuss [the matter] with me.”

Khan had stated he doubts the intention of the PML-N supremo Nawaz Sharif. “I have no issues with whoever is made the army chief but I want that the decision should be taken on merit,” he had said.

“The matter was very simple. There are principles of seniority. The army knows which people of its are capable, but the people who will choose and appoint them […] the big corrupt mafia […]I doubt their intentions and not the person who will be appointed.”

“We don’t know who they will appoint but the president and I have decided that we will play within the law and do whatever is in law and Constitution,” the PTI chief had said.

Lt Gen Asim Munir joined the Pakistan Army from the Mangala 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 Quarter Master at the General Headquarters (GHQ).

He will become the first army chief who has headed both — the MI and the ISI. Lt Gen Munir will also be the first army chief who has been awarded the Sword of Honour. When he was posted in Madina as a lieutenant colonel, the military officer became Hafiz-i-Quran (a person who has memorised the Quran) at age 38.

Lt Gen Sahir Shamshad Mirza hails from the Sindh Regiment and served as the director-general of the military operations under former COAS Raheel Sharif.

Lt Gen Mirza also supervised the operations against terrorists in North Waziristan and was part of the coordination group that oversaw negotiations with Afghanistan.He was also a member of the Gilgit-Baltistan Reforms Committee. After becoming a Lt Gen, Mirza was appointed as the Chief of the General Staff. Currently, he is serving as the Corps Commander Rawalpindi.

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