Lieutenant General Asim Munir has been named as the new Pakistan Army chief to replace incumbent General Qamar Javed Bajwa, Pakistan’s information and broadcasting minister announced on Thursday.
Munir was among those in Pakistan who oversaw the 2019 Pulwama terror attack, according to Tilak Devasher, a member of the National Security Advisory Board (NSAB) and who retired as Special Secretary, Cabinet Secretariat.
“It was under his (Lt Gen Munir’s) watch that the Pulwama attack took place and he was DG of the ISI in November and this happened in February 2019. He also served in the areas in the core that overlooks or deals with Kashmir in India. So, he is very familiar with this area” Devasher told to media.
Tensions between India and Pakistan escalated following the suicide attack in which 40 CRPF personnel lost their lives when their convoy was attacked on the Jammu Srinagar highway on February 14, 2019. Lt Gen Munir is expected to take over as Pakistan Chief of Army Staff (COAS) from 61-year-old Bajwa, who is scheduled to retire on November 29.
On the impact of General Munir becoming the new army chief of Pakistan, Devasher said, “No army chief of Pakistan has been friendly towards India. So, Asim Munir is not going to break the mould. He will continue to have a hardline stance towards India.”
Devasher said, “If problems in Pakistan escalate and he has the experience. It’s quite likely, India should have to be prepared that he is going to be…and he has this thing on Pulwama. So, we need to be very careful on this particular score.”
India has been closely watching the development as the new Pakistani Army chief is expected to influence the government’s stance on Islamabad-New Delhi relations as well as Pakistan’s policies towards “all-weather ally” China and also the United States.
Pakistan has recently been taken off the watchlist of the global money laundering and terrorist financing watchdog, the Financial Action Task Force (FATF). The country is also facing an extremely precarious economic situation.
According to experts, Pakistan has always resorted to terrorist attacks against India to keep tensions alive. “…they cannot afford to do anything against India, given the strong reaction India has shown in the past that if you do anything we will hit you back. So, he (Lt Gen Munir) will have to watch his steps very carefully. But, we will have to be certainly very careful”
According to Devasher, who has authored three books on Pakistan. Lt Gen Munir has served both as head of Military Intelligence, and as the head of Pakistan’s spy agency Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI). He served in the position of the head of military intelligence for a period of 21 months starting 2017.
In October 2018, he became director-general of ISI but was removed from the post by Bajwa at the instance of the then Prime Minister Imran Khan. Notably, Khan blamed the army for playing a part in his ouster earlier this year.
According to Devasher, during the reign of the PML(N) government in Pakistan four or five army chiefs were appointed without following seniority in the armed forces.
“For the first time the Sharifs have appointed the senior most in the hope that they have made the mistake in the past of not picking the senior most. Now they are picking the senior most, hopefully, things will be smooth. So, we will have to wait and see if the Sharifs have better luck in the appointment of this army chief who is the senior most than they had in the past,” Devasher said.
Earlier today, Pakistan’s Information and Broadcasting Minister Marriyum Aurangzeb via a tweet confirmed the name of Lt Gen Munir for the post of COAS. She also announced the appointment of Lieutenant General Sahir Shamshad Mirza as the chairman of Pakistan’s joint chiefs of staff.
“The Prime Minister of Pakistan Muhammad Shahbaz Sharif has decided to appoint Lt. Gen. Sahir Shamshad Mirza as the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Lt. Gen. Syed Asim Munir as the Chief of the Army Staff using the constitutional authority. A summary of this has been sent to the President of Pakistan,” Aurangzeb said in a tweet.
Earlier on Wednesday, Pakistan’s Prime Minister’s Office confirmed that it had received the summary for the appointment of chairman joint chiefs of staff committee and chief of the army staff.