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Photo Source: Dawn

Pakistan Reader# 420, 24 November 2022

PM Shehbaz Sharif chooses General Asim Munir as COAS



Who is the new head of the army?

Bhoomika Sesharaj

On 24 November, PM Shehbaz Sharif named Lt General Asim Munir as the new chief of army staff  (COAS) after weeks of surmise and speculation. The announcement was made by Information Minister Marriyum Aurangzeb, who said that the PM had chosen the COAS based on his “discretionary constitutional authority.” The PM also announced Lt Gen Sahir Shamshad Mirza as the new Chairman of the Joint Staffs Committee (CJCSC). 

What did the government say?
The Information Minister said that an executive summary of the new heads of the army has been sent to President Arif Alvi for approval. Additionally, Defense Minister Khawaja Asif mentioned that the announcement had been “decided” according to the law and the authority of the constitution, and asked the country to “refrain” from looking over the matter with a “political lens.” He emphasised that the president should “endorse” the PM’s advice in a bid to avoid fallouts. 

He said, “This is also a test for President Alvi, whether he will follow political advice or the constitutional and legal advice. As the Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, it is his duty to protect the country from political conflicts.”

Who is the Lt General Asim Munir?
Lt General Asim Munir comes from the Frontier Force regiment and was appointed the Military Intelligence Director General in early 2017 and the Inter-Services Intelligence Chief (ISI) in October 2018. His term as chief ended within eight months. He was made the Gujranwala Corps commander where he served for two years. 

Who is the Lt General Sahir Shamshad Mirza?
Lieutenant Gen Mirza comes from the Sindh Regiment and came to prominence as the director general of military operations. He was also a part of the Quadrilateral Coordination Group that held talks and an operational member of strategic committees which makes reforms for Gilgit-Baltistan. 

Do the allies support the PM’s decision?
On 24 November, a statement issued by the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) said that PM Shehbaz headed a meeting which included heads of political parties of the ruling coalition to “take them into confidence” before the announcement of the new COAS was made. The statement said that PPP leaders Bilawal Bhutto Zardari and Asif Ali Zardari expressed “gratitude” to the PM for asking for a consolidated opinion of all the allied parties, and said, “Although it is solely your [PM’s] prerogative to appoint any of the candidates, we are grateful to you [PM] for keeping us all on board on the important matter.”

The PML-Q president said that the party “stands firmly” by the PM and that it is the prime minister’s constitutional right to make this decision. He said that he was “thankful” for keeping them “on board”. PM Shehbaz is expected to meet the other allies of the government as a part of the consultative process and said that a meeting with the outgoing COAS, is to happen. 

What did Imran Khan say?
Preceding the announcement, Imran Khan claimed that President Alvi will “definitely” consult him as soon as the summary of the appointment reaches the President’s office. He said, “President Dr Arif Alvi will definitely consult me on the summary for the appointment of army chief and take a decision as per the law and Constitution. I am head of the party that Dr Alvi belongs to.” This comes after Imran Khan claimed that the new COAS’s neutrality had already been compromised with the involvement of the “convict” Nawaz Sharif in the decision. 

When will the President approve the summary?
On 24 October, Defense Minister Khawaja Asif said that the new COAS would “likely be appointed” before PM Shehbaz leaves for Turkey on 25 November. According to Article 243 (3) of the Constitution, the President appoints the service chiefs on the recommendation of the prime minister, to which Asif said: “I don’t know many articles of the Constitution, you should know.” He said that the matter would be “settled” before the prime minister left. He reiterated that the President should look into the summary closely so that a “controversy” does not arise and will support the country’s path to “get on track” and questioned the president’s willingness to appoint the chiefs as soon as possible. (“ PM Shehbaz’s picks for COAS, CJCSC sent to President Alvi,” Dawn, 24 November 2022; “Who is Lt Gen Sahir Shamshad Mirza, the PM’s choice for CJCSC?,” Dawn, 24 November 2022; “Who is Lt Gen Asim Munir, PM Shehbaz’s pick for army chief?,” Dawn, 24 November 2022; Syed Irfan Raza, “Allies ‘trust’ Shehbaz with COAS appointment,” Dawn, 24 November 2022)

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