Military & Aerospace

Pakistan has a new Chief of Army Staff
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Issue Net Edition | Date : 10 Dec , 2022

Replacement of Imran Khan as Prime Minister

General Syed Asif Munir was reportedly the consensus candidate for the post of Chief of Army Staff. His appointment was however preceded by chaos caused by the replacement of Imran Khan as Prime Minister by some coalition partners who were accused by Imran Khan as having been encouraged by the army to desert him and consequent loss of majority in Parliament! Imran Khan’s ouster as Prime Minister was a unique event in Pakistan’s history as he was the first PM to be replaced by the Parliament and not by the army. From the days of Ayub Khan (1958-1961) army had always played a vital role in Pakistani politics and still does. Foreign policy effectively remains the army’s preserve.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs is basically a spokesperson for the army. It would be erroneous to think that differences exist between the army and the Foreign Ministry. Both are viciously anti-Indian and pro-Islamic in their attitude. Official military spending of Pakistan is 7 percent of GDP but in reality, it more than 10 percent, almost 70 percent of Karachi stock exchange is military industrial complex.  Military service is the only major source of good middle- and high-income jobs hence it’s an aspiration. For e.g. the amount of land army officers get as they keep rising above the ranks is incredible. The separation of “Mullah” (or Taliban) even in the General ranks is non-existent, no Civilian and Judiciary can be overridden by Military. Pakistani military recruitment is extensive and covers all regions of Pakistan and is very good at training personnel according to its ideology. Nothing wrong in it since that’s the way of the world. Pakistani primary ideology involves competing/fighting with India. For e.g. in spite of loss in all four wars (one of them resulted is formation of Bangladesh) it continues to fight as it considers not fighting as a  defeat. As long it fights it considers a  victory.

Imran Khan and General Asif Munir

General Asif Munir’s carrier received a jolt when Imran Khan removed him from the post of DGFI for reasons not revealed in public. With the removal of Imran Khan as PM, Shabaj Sharif who became Prime Minister in consultation with his elder brother Nawaz Sharif who is under conviction for corruption and can only return to Pakistan if his appeal to the Supreme Court is upheld that without army’s blessings is unlikely to happen. New Army Chief has another distinction. He graduated not from the Military Academy but rose from the ranks to the rank of Lieutenant General which testifies to his brilliance. General Asif Munir also had the good fortune to work under General Qamar Javed Bajwa whose term ended in November. Besides General Bajwa had declared that he would not seek another term, a declaration that went in favor of Sharif brothers as General Bajwa and Imran Khan were not on good terms. Consequently, when Shahbaj Sharif recommended to the President of Pakistan that General Asif Munir be appointed as the Army Chief the President though a member of Imran Khan’s political Party-Tehrik-e-Insaf was constitutionally bound to appoint General Asif Munir as Army Chief. Rana Bannerji, one of India’s expert of Pakistan army brought out some anomalies in the appointment of General Asif Munir. According to Bannerji, General Asim Munir had joined the army through Pakistan’s Open Training Service (OTS). Imran Khan pleaded in front of PM Shahbaz to appoint the new Chief of Pakistan Army! General Munir of the Frontier Force Regiment is the senior-most three-star general and a favorite of General Bajwa. When General Bajwa was the commander of X Corps, then Lt. General Munir was posted there as a Brigadier. In the year 2017. General Bajwa made him the Director General of Military Intelligence, and within a year he also became the Chief of ISIA. But after eight months, he was removed from this post at the behest of the then PM Imran Khan.

The reason was General Munir’s disclosure of corruption by the wife of Imran Khan. Besides, according to Bannerji, two controversies surround General Munir’s appointment. First, the fact he was to retire on November 27 and General Bajwa, was to retire on November 29. Second, the role General Munir played during his brief stint as DG ISI, exposing allegations of corruption surrounding Imran Khan’s wife Bushra Sheikh. Banerji explains why Nawaz Sharif is said to be close to General Munir. He also discusses how General Munir is likely to respond to Imran Khan’s long march, which was due to culminate in a major rally in Rawalpindi/Islamabad on November 26. He also answered the question of how the new Army chief would respond if the Sharif government calls on the army to control the situation in the event there’s violence at Imran Khan’s Islamabad rally. Now that General Asif Munir has been appointed Army Chief it is difficult to assume a peaceful Pakistan.

Imran Khan’s march to Rawalpindi and his declared revenge against General Bajwa reported conspiracy along with the US support to oust Imran Khan (totally denied by the US embassy in Islamabad) does not augur well for a peaceful resolution of the conflict before the general election that is knocking at the door. Prime Minister Shabaj Sharif has to be reminded of his party’s dismal performance in the Punjub assembly elections in which Imran Khan’s Tehrik-e-Insaf Party won almost all the Assembly seats while Shabaj Sharif,s Pakitan Peoples Party won only a few seats. Punjab has been in the past the unassailable fort of the Sharif brothers while Imran Khan hails from the North West Frontier Province. Despite internal conflict in Pakistan the US cannot afford to ignore Pakistan and vice-e-Versa. US needs Pakistan in its fight against the Sino-Russian alignment despite India’s long-standing relationship with then USSR in particular then USSR’s repeated veto during the liberation war of Bangladesh. India from its freedom from the British Raj in 1947 has been following non-aligned foreign policy under Prime Minister Pandit Nehru who along with Kwame Nkrumah of Uganda and President Sukarno of Indonesia were leaders of the Non-Aligned Movement.

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The views expressed are of the author and do not necessarily represent the opinions or policies of the Indian Defence Review.

About the Author

Kazi Anwarul Masud

former Ambassador and Secretary in the Foreign Ministry of Bangladesh.

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