Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif appointed Major General Asim Munir as commander of the Pakistani army, a move that would further deepen the political crisis in the country and exacerbate the dangerous confrontation between former Prime Minister Imran Khan and the powerful army.
Information Minister Marium Aurangzeb announced the appointment on Twitter. Munir will replace General Qamar Javed Bajwa, whose six-year term ends on November 29.
Defense Minister Khawaja Asif told reporters that the appointment had been sent for approval to President Arif Alvi, who belongs to Khan’s party. Asif said he did not expect any delays and that the president’s approval would come later Thursday.
However, the new appointment is likely to mark a setback for Khan, who ousted Monir as head of the army’s elite spying wing, the Mukhabarat Mukhabarat, within eight months of his appointment. Khan replaced him with an officer considered close to him.
Munir currently serves at Army Headquarters as Quartermaster General, overseeing supplies for all military units. Apart from the ISI, he also led the Military Intelligence Department. He has served under the direct command of the Bajwa in the often volatile northern regions bordering Afghanistan, China and India.
The appointment of Pakistan’s army chief is being watched with interest because the establishment wields enormous influence over the country’s politics – particularly its foreign and defense policies. The military has also directly ruled the nuclear-armed country for about half of its history since its creation in 1947.
This time the ad garnered more attention as tensions rose between the army and Khan. The former leader blamed Sharif for colluding with the United States to manipulate his exit from office through a vote of no confidence in April. Meanwhile, Khan accused the army of not doing enough to save his government. It is a charge that all three have denied.
The former cricket star also named the sheriff and a powerful general from the army’s spy wing responsible for a shooting attack earlier this month that left him injured in the leg.
Khan has been leading his supporters in large rallies and rallies demanding snap elections for Sharif – and he is confident of his victory after the success he has seen in recent by-elections. He also said earlier that the new army chief should be named by the new government – giving him a chance to make the crucial appointment.
According to Kamran Bokhari, director of analytical development at the Washington-based New Lines Foundation for Strategy and Policy.
Markets responded cautiously to the announcement. The KSE-100 rose 0.3% to 42,994.2. The 7.375% 2031 Pakistan Dollar Bond was noted to have risen by 0.2 cents to trade at 32.6 cents on the dollar while the rupee was trading flat.
Adnan Khan, Head of International Sales at Intermarket Securities Ltd. , in Karachi, investors are a little concerned about possible delays in the appointment for approval by the president.
Khan’s attempts to control military promotions have been the cause of recent political tensions in Pakistan. Late last year, he publicly opposed Bajwa’s selection to lead the country’s spy agency, expressing support for one of his allies to remain in the position. Eventually the army chief got his way, but the incident sowed the seeds for Khan’s ouster nearly six months later.
The new military leader will also have to contend with a renewed debate about the role of the institution in a country that has a history of civilian rulers overthrown by the military.
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