President gives summary for COAS, CJCSC appointment seal of approval

  • COAS Asim Munir, CJCSC Sahir Shamshad Mirza meet President, PM Shehbaz
  • Dr Alvi consults PTI chief after receiving advice from PM’s office

ISLAMABAD: Bringing all speculations and debates to an end, President Dr Arif Alvi on Thursday gave the summary for the appointment of Lt-Gen Syed Asim Munir as next army chief and Lt-Gen Sahir Shamshad Mirza as new Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee (CJCSC), seal of approval.

“The President promoted Lieutenant General Syed Asim Munir HI(M) to the rank of General with immediate effect and appointed him as Chief of Army Staff with effect from November 29, 2022,” an official statement issued by the President’s Secretariat said.

It added: “President Dr Arif Alvi has also promoted Lieutenant General Sahir Shamshad Mirza HI(M) to the rank of General with immediate effect and appointed him as Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee with effect from November 27, 2022,” an official statement issued by the President’s Secretariat said.

The statement said that the promotions and appointments were made under article 243(4) (a)&(b) and Article 48(1) of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan read with Sections 8-A and 8-D of the Pakistan Army Act 1952.

The development came following the president’s meeting with Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan at Zaman Park.

Footage of the president’s caravan arriving at Imran’s Lahore residence was shared on social media by the PTI amid claims that the two would discuss the party’s plan of action ahead of the appointment for the army’s top seat.

On the other hand, media reports said that President Alvi also held a meeting with legal experts at the Presidency and signed the summary following the meeting with Imran Khan.

The Ministry of Defence would formally issue a notification about the top military appointments.

COAS-designate, CJCSC-designate meet President, PM

Later, newly-appointed Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Asim Munir Ahmed Shah and Chairman Joint Chief of Staff Committee (CJCSC) Sahir Shamshad Mirza met with President Arif Alvi and Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif.

According to details, the newly-appointed COAS and CJCSC met with President Arif Alvi in the President’s House on the President’s invitation. The President congratulated both the Generals on their appointments.

The COAS and CJCSC met with Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif in the Prime Minister’s house. The Prime Minister congratulated both the Generals and commended their professionalism.

PM Shehbaz names Asim Munir as new army chief

Earlier, PM Shehbaz Sharif picked Lt-Gen Syed Asim Munir, a former spymaster, to replace outgoing army chief Qamar Javed Bajwa, the minister for information said Thursday, less than 24 hours after the prime minister’s office (PMO) received a list of names of six senior Lieutenants Generals to lead the military at a politically tense time for Pakistan.

Lt. Gen. Sahir Shamshad Mirza has been selected to chair the Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee (JCSC), an advisory body that deals with important military and non-military strategic matters, Marriyum Aurangzeb further said.

Gen. Munir, who headed the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) spy bureau between October 2018 and June 2019, will likely take charge of the world’s sixth-largest army by troop numbers in a formal handover on Tuesday when Gen. Bajwa formally retires after serving for six years.

An army chief’s tenure is for three years, but they often obtain extensions, as did Gen. Bajwa in 2019.

The prime minister made those decisions “using his constitutional authority,” the minister said. A summary advising the same has been sent to the president of Pakistan, supreme commander of the armed forces, for formal approval, she added.

According to Article 243-3 of the Constitution, the president appoints all service chiefs on the recommendation of the prime minister, who may consult his aides but he solely has the power to make the appointment.

Following Dr Arif Alvi’s approval, the list will be sent back to the PMO for a formal announcement.

The appointment of chiefs of the navy and air force goes unnoticed but it is not the case with the nomination of the army chief. The guessing game starts months before the end of the tenure of the incumbent.

With Gen. Bajwa set to retire on November 29, the appointment of Gen. Munir is expected to prompt a new set of challenges, especially amidst an economic crisis and climate catastrophe.

Pakistan is in the midst of another bout of political uncertainty as Khan has led country-wide protests in an attempt to force the government into early elections. The incoming army chief could potentially play a key role in lowering the political temperature.

WILL ALVI APPROVE SHARIF’S CHOICE?

It is not clear if Alvi will immediately approve the appointments as he is a member of Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) party.

Imran Khan, the former prime minister, could still make a last-ditch attempt through Alvi, a member of his Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) party. While the cabinet has cleared Munir’s name, the president has to sign off on it, which is usually a formality.

But if Alvi chooses to sit on it, it would cut close to Munir’s retirement date on November 27, when his four-year tenure as a lieutenant general is due to end. By becoming army chief, who has a three-year tenure, Munir’s service would get automatically extended.

On Thursday, security officials said Alvi was in Lahore to consult Khan about Munir’s nomination.

Meanwhile, according to the party’s Twitter account, Khan said “when the summary comes, I and the president of Pakistan will act according to the Constitution and laws” governing the institution.

“President Alvi will definitely consult me on the matter and take a decision as per the law and Constitution. I am head of the party that Dr Alvi belongs to,” he told a group of visiting journalists at his Zaman Park residence in Lahore on Wednesday.

Speaking to the press minutes after the announcement was made, Khawaja Muhammad Asif, minister for defence, confirmed the summary has been forwarded to Alvi.

Insisting that the matter had been “settled according to the law and the Constitution”, Asif expressed the hope the president won’t make the appointments “controversial” and would endorse Sharif’s advice.

The minister urged the president to endorse the advice to avoid any controversy. “This will also help our country and the economy to get on track. Currently, everything is at a standstill,” he observed.

Asif also called on the nation to refrain from viewing it through a “political lens”.

BAJWA’S LEGACY

Appointed chief in 2016, Gen. Bajwa sought to balance ties with China and the United States. While Islamabad moved closer to Beijing, he also worked to thaw relations with Washington, with whom he worked closely during the evacuation of Kabul in 2021 when western forces pulled out of Afghanistan.

He also took an active interest in economic matters, and made highly-publicised visits to Beijing and the Middle East — helping to secure financial assistance for Pakistan. Recently, he also lobbied Washington to help strike a deal with the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

He even summoned the nation’s top industrialists to a meeting at General Headquarters (GHQ) to encourage them to pay more taxes.

During his tenure, Pakistan and India fought air skirmishes in 2019, but he was a public proponent of better ties and avoided escalation when tensions ran high, such as when an Indian missile accidentally crashed into Pakistan early this year.

In early 2021, Gen. Bajwa sanctioned a restoration of a ceasefire agreement with Delhi in the disputed region of Kashmir.

With input from Reuters

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