ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif on Thursday picked Lt. Gen. Asim Munir to replace outgoing Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa as new chief of the country’s all-powerful army.
The head of the army is arguably the most influential person in Pakistan — with the military having ruled the country for about half of its 75-year history since independence from Britain — and has extensive powers even under civilian administrations.
Munir, currently serving as quartermaster general in the Pakistan army, will likely take charge of the world’s sixth-largest defense force by troop numbers in a formal handover on Tuesday when Bajwa retires.
Lt. Gen. Sahir Shamshad Mirza has been appointed chairman of the joint chiefs of staff committee.
“The Prime Minister of Pakistan Muhammad Shehbaz 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 his constitutional authority,” the information minister tweeted.
“A summary of this has been sent to the President of Pakistan.”
Munir was the most senior general on the list of nominations sent to the prime minister by the military for the army chief’s position.
Munir is from the 17th course of the Officers Training School in Mangla and was commissioned in the 23rd Battalion of the Frontier Force Regiment.
He was promoted to the rank of lieutenant general in September 2018 and was subsequently appointed as the head of Pakistan’s all-powerful Inter-Services Intelligence, or ISI, spy agency.
In June 2019, Munir was replaced by Lt. Gen. Faiz Hameed as the new director general of the ISI after only eight months on the job, over what was widely reported as differences with then-Prime Minister Imran Khan.
Munir was then transferred and appointed as corps commander of the XXX Corps in Gujranwala, northern Punjab province. He has previously also served as director general of Military Intelligence and commander of the troops deployed in the Northern Areas of Pakistan.
As well as controlling security, the army operates a vast business empire in the country and often dictates key areas of Pakistan’s foreign policy, including relations with historic foe India and its war-torn western neighbor Afghanistan.