The new COAS’ tasks

Both professionally and politically, the COAS has his work cut out

New COAS Gen Asim Munir has now visited both the Western and eastern borders of the country in his first visits after taking charge on November 29. His tenure will be devoted to these frontiers not just because they are there, but because they are active. While his experience as a corps commander, at Gujranwala, was of confrontation along the Working Boundary, and his earlier experience as Force Commander Northern Area put him in charge of the Siachen Glacier, he is now also responsible also for the LoC. Currently there is a ceasefire in place, and General Munir would want that to stay in place, though with a fanatical RSS pracharak as Indian PM, he can prepare for turbulence like the Pulwama incident, if not outright conflict. General Munir also visited the troops on the border with Afghanistan. While he dealt with Afghanistan and the Taliban while DGMI and then DG ISI, he would have found that much has changed since, and that the Taliban have come to power. However, that has not stopped terrorist attacks in Pakistan. The most recent upsurge cannot be blamed on the USA, as was done when the Taliban took over. Guarding that border is also a major responsibility for the new COAS, as will be the ending of terrorism. The Army is exposed both directly to attacks, and indirectly, through its officers on secondment to the civil armed forces like the Frontier Constabulary.

However, also to prove a test is the involvement of the Army in politics. True, the Army has been at pains to claim that it is no longer involved, but the PTI’s attempts to drag it back in have to be resisted. A salient feature of developed democracies is that politicians do not ask for intervention, not so much because they are not willing to try, as because they already know it will be useless. General Munir must create that kind of belief in politicians during his tenure. It is only by firm resistance to temptation that he can play a strictly constitutional role.

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General Munir was awarded the Nishan-i-Imtiaz (Military) along with the new Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee, Gen Shamshad Mirza. The award goes with the post, but it will gain meaning, as an award by a civilian government to a service chief, if the service is kept on the path of strict constitutionalism.

The Editorial Department of Pakistan Today can be contacted at: [email protected]


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