President Dr Arif Alvi on Thursday approved a summary sent by Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif for the appointment of Lt-Gen Syed Asim Munir as the next army chief and Lt-Gen Sahir Shamshad Mirza as the new Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee (CJCSC), ending days of speculations.
General Syed Asim Munir will end the six-year-long tenure of General Qamar Javed Bajwa. Gen Mirza will replace the Gen Nadeem Raza, as the CJCSC – technically the most senior position in the military but considered as ceremonial.
The announcement of the key appointments in the army was first made by Information Minister Maryam Aurangzeb following the special cabinet meeting chaired by Prime Minister Shehbaz. Unlike the past, the government did not wait for the president to sign the summary to announce the decision.
“Using his constitutional powers, Prime Minister Shahbaz 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,” Maryam announced on Twitter.
The announcement before the president gave his assent, appeared to be a deliberate move by the government in order to pre-empt any step by the president that might derail the process.
The president instead of signing the summary took a special plane to meet Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan in Lahore. For a moment it felt the country might be heading for another crisis as rumours spread that the president might not sign the summary straightaway.
However, all those speculations were short lived as the president within hours signed the summary to approve both the appointments.
“President Dr Arif Alvi has promoted Lieutenant General Sahir Shamshad Mirza HI(M) to the rank of General with immediate effect and appointed him as Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee with effect from 27th November 2022,” an official statement issued by the President’s Secretariat said.
“The president promoted Lieutenant General Syed Asim Munir HI(M) to the rank of General with immediate effect and appointed him as Chief of Army Staff with effect from 29th November 2022,” official statement added.
The statement said that the promotions and appointments were made under articles 243(4) (a)&(b) and 48(1) of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan read with sections 8-A and 8-D of the Pakistan Army Act 1952.
Soon after the president’s approval, the newly-installed generals separately called on Alvi. Later, the newly appointed army chief and the CJCSC also called on the prime minister. The PTI, in a statement, congratulated both the four-star officers and wished them good luck.
The appointment of army chief continued to dominate the national discourse for several weeks as people kept guessing that who would succeed Gen Bajwa.
The defence ministry had sent a summary with six names to the Prime Minister Office on Tuesday night. Gen Asim Munir and Gen Sahir Shamshad Mirza were the first and second in the seniority list, respectively. Therefore, both key slots went to the most-senior generals after Gen Bajwa.
In 2013, General Raheel Sharif was number 3, and in 2016, Gen Bajwa was number 4 in order of seniority. This time the government upheld the principle of seniority.
Gen Asim is the only second army chief who also remained head of Pakistan’s premier spy agency. General Ashfaq Pervez Kayani was the other chief of staff who served as the director general of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) before becoming the four-star general.
Gen Asim, who hails from the garrison city of Rawalpindi, has diversified experience in the army. He has served as corps commander Gujranwala. He was also the DG ISI from October 2018 to June 2019. He also served as DG Military Intelligence (MI).
Gen Asim was considered as a frontrunner as the government indicated that the principle of seniority would take precedence this time in the appointment of a new chief. Those who know Gen Asim or worked with him are of the view that he is a “straight talker”.
Lt Gen Mirza was the second on the seniority list. He was Corps Commander Rawalpindi. He also served as chief of general staff (CGS) – a key position most army chiefs held in the past. The CGS is known as the de facto army chief since he heads both the operational and intelligence directorates. In simple words, every file in the army goes through the CGS table.
Previously, he served as the Director General Military Operations (DGMO). General Mirza has an interesting personal background. He lost his parents at an early age. He rose to this position with sheer hard work and struggle.
It is stated that he mentioned his unit in the parents’ column.
Those who know Gen Mirza closely say he enjoys a good reputation in the army. He is not involved in any controversy and there is not much debate about his candidature.
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