The designation of Lt Gen Asim Munir as the next Chief of Army Staff, to succeed Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa, did not take that long after the summary was moved by the Ministry of Defence. General Munir’s appointment was expected, he being at the top of the seniority list. The appointment of the second officer on the seniority list, Lt Gen Shamshad Mirza, as Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee, means that the Prime Minister has apparently not exercised any choice, not picked and chosen, but simply appointed the most senior officer COAS and the next most senior Chairman. That is actually a sensible approach, which needs to be institutionalized. It has been applied with a fair degree of success in the judiciary. One advantage is that it has taken the uncertainty of the process, and has removed the discretion of the executive. It might be further noted that there is greater selectivity and more rigour in screening officers than in elevating judges to the Bench. Such a principle would also lessen, perhaps even eliminate, the kind of unseemly speculation that went on before the present appointment.
Because much of the media coverage and analysis was just speculation, not solid facts, there was discomfort caused to the Army. There were unfair slurs cast on various officers, assigning them sympathies for political parties, which they probably did not feel. The implications of PTI chief Imran Khan’s claims about letting Mian Nawaz Sharif and Asif Zardari have a say in the COAS’ appointment, that they would seek a Coas who would let them get away with theft, is hardly complimentary to the new COAS, and involves assumptions about the laxity of the military promotion process that are not borne out by facts.
The new COAS has got quite a lot on his plate. His new job is no sinecure, not with General Bajwa’s farewell address the day before establishing some of the goals he will have to further. Foremost will be keeping the Army out of politics. The purely professional challenges are also considerable. With a Hindu chauvinist BJP government in India, challenges could arise at any time. There is a live war between Ukraine and Russia, with another between the USA and Iran possible. Pakistan’s traditional close relationship has been threatened both by its stand-off with the USA, another longtime Pakistani ally, and the problems CPEC is still facing after the neglect of the PTI government. General Asim is unlikely to go out seeking trouble, as plenty will come to him.