New Delhi: All eyes in Pakistan are now on Lt General Syed Asim Munir. On Tuesday, General Qamar Javed Bajwa formally handed over the command of the Pakistan Army to Lt Gen Munir, Pakistan’s 17th Chief of Army Staff. General Sahir Shamshad Mirza has been promoted to the position of Chairman of the Joint Chief of Staff Committee. In appointing Munir, the ruling Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) government broke precedent and went with seniority.
Munir is the first Army chief to have headed both the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and the Military Intelligence.
The appointment, which comes in the backdrop of former prime minister Imran Khan’s long march following his ouster, saw Pakistani columnists noting the challenges that lie ahead for Lt Gen Munir and his critical role in keeping his predecessor General Bajwa’s parting word about Pakistani Army’s stance of remaining “apolitical”.
In an opinion article for Dawn, journalist Arifa Noor questioned whether the new ‘establishment’ would look into the political unrest gripping Balochistan and Pakistan’s declining economy.
According to journalist Syed Talat Hussain, the new Army chief’s single-most important challenge is to “address the toxic legacy of retd Gen Bajwa”.
The single-most important challenge before the new army chief Gen Asim Munir is to address the toxic legacy of retd Gen Bajwa whose six years in office have left no area of national and military affairs without corrosion and controversy. Now thats a staggering task.
— Syed Talat Hussain (@TalatHussain12) November 29, 2022
Abbas Nasir, former editor of Dawn.com notes that now that the era of Bajwa is done with amid political turmoil, the new chief needs to live up to his predecessor’s claims of the military being apolitical or he might ‘face repercussions for a hands-on approach in political engineering’.
On social media, the appointment received a lot of mirth and jibes from Pakistanis, who wondered if things could ever change. Lawyer Naghma Sherin Afridi congratulated Lt Gen Munir with a sarcastic tweet.
Congratulations to Pakistan's new Prime Minister, Minister of State, Foreign Minister, and whatnot, General Asim Munir. pic.twitter.com/sP7x9HDxBz
— Naghma Sherin Afridi (@naghma_afridi) November 29, 2022
The desire among Imran Khan supporters for an early election got a new lease of life with one user commenting that “stability in Pakistan” is possible through the former PM’s “formula”—“clean and transparent elections”, something that the user said is a “responsibility” of the new COAS.
The new COAS General Asim Munir has come up with a great responsibility for justice, stability and to bring back our army image. Our leader Imran Khan has also given the formula to bring stability in Pakistan and that is only clean and transparent elections
— Dr Hina (@hina98_hina) November 29, 2022
A retired Pakistan Army officer, Maj Gen Javed Aslam Tahir, responded to a Twitter user on the “very expensive and elaborate retirement ceremony” by noting Lt Gen Munir’s first order after taking charge: “no ceremony of change of command shall be held” in future.
Received First Orders of Gen Asim Munir, COAS regarding Change of Command Ceremonies
"General Asim Munir has directed that in future no ceremony of change of command shall be held. He directed it for all ranks and formations
(COAS’s first formal order after assuming the command ) https://t.co/3HzSxXiZGe
— Maj Gen Javed Aslam Tahir, Retired. (@javedatahir) November 29, 2022
New chief and India
India was bound to figure in some analysts’ commentary on Munir’s appointment.
Kamran Yousuf noted in The Express Tribune that Lt Gen Asim Munir’s “task is already cut out” amid a reeling economy, resurgence of militancy and Indian generals “giving provocative statements threatening to cross the Line of Control.”
Najam Sethi, the editor of The Friday Times, noted that the foreign policy decisions that were taken during General Bajwa’s rule such as the 2003 ceasefire agreement with India will be held in continuity. He added that the new chief’s appointment may see a “slight thaw in the India-Pakistan relations if Imran Khan doesn’t meddle in it.”
Daily Times Pakistan, in its editorial, noted that while Gen created a stir with his statement asserting that the military would remain apolitical, it is left to be seen what road the new chief takes with regards to India and the economic situation in Pakistan after an appointment amid “heated power plays that would even make Machiavellian tactics go red as a beetroot”.
Although Lt Gen Munir hasn’t given any indication so far what the way forward would be, it’s clear his path is strewn with many challenges and a resurgent Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) won’t make it easy for him.
“Reign of Samdi Urf Sabir Mithu coming to an end. Hoping General asim munir will take action against “tout culture” (the land grabbers for DHA),” tweeted Khan’s nephew and PTI’s focal person on legal affairs, Hassaan Khan Niazi.
(Edited by Prashant)