Prime Minister appoints Asim Munir as new Army chief amid Pakistan’s political crisis

Pakistan Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif during a visit to China. – CHEN JIANLI / XINHUA NEWS / CONTACTOPHOTO

Pakistan Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif on Thursday announced the appointment of Asim Munir as the new army chief, amid a deep political crisis and former Prime Minister Imran Jan’s demand to be consulted on nominations.

Sharif unveiled during the day that Munir is his choice to head the army, while Sahir Shamshad has been appointed chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee, Information Minister Marriyum Aurangzeb confirmed.

Aurangzeb said in a message on her Twitter account that the decision «has been sent to the president, Arif Alvi» for approval, while stressing that Sharif has made the appointments «exercising his constitutional authority» after Jan demanded that the current army chief remain in office until new elections are held.

Munir, who in the past headed the country’s intelligence services — at the head of which he was surprisingly removed by Jan — will replace Qamar Yaved Bajua once Alvi confirms the appointment. Sharif has chosen Munir from among six candidates for the post.

Minutes before the announcement, Pakistani Defense Minister Jauaja Asif had stressed that the matter had been resolved in line with the country’s laws and Constitution and asked the population not to analyze it «through a political lens», as reported by the ‘Dawn’ newspaper.

«It is also a test for Alvi on whether he accepts political advice or constitutional and legal advice,» Asif said on his Twitter account, a message in which he recalled that «as supreme commander of the Armed Forces, it is his duty to protect the country from political conflicts.»

For his part, the former prime minister has stressed that both he and the president «will act in line with the constitution and laws,» Jan’s Pakistan-Tehrik e Insaf (PTI) party said on its Twitter account. Jan said Wednesday that Alvi would «most certainly» consult him once he received the appointment.

«President Alvi will consult me, with full certainty, on the appointment of the army chief and take a decision according to the law and the constitution. I am the head of the party to which Alvi belongs,» the former prime minister told reporters at his residence, from where he announced that he plans to resume nationwide demonstrations to demand the calling of early elections.

Jan, who in the framework of these demonstrations survived an assassination attempt after being shot several times in the leg, became in April the first Pakistani president to be dismissed in a no-confidence motion. He was also disqualified at the end of October by the electoral commission for failing to declare money from the sale of gifts and presents received from international leaders when he was at the head of the government.

His departure from office was followed by a growing political tension marked by scandals of transfuguism and massive protests in favor and against the Prime Minister, denounced by the opposition alliance of the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) as a «puppet» of the Army. The Armed Forces are considered to be the most powerful force in Pakistan since its independence from the British Raj in 1947.