Triumph of merit and law

For the first time in many decades in the country, the Army Chief has been named on the basis of seniority

November 25, 2022


It was a moment of realisation of merit. For the first time in many decades in the country, the Army Chief has been named on the basis of seniority. There wasn’t any pick and choose this time around, as several times in the past. Lieutenant General Asim Munir, the senior most officer of the day, has been named as the new Chief of Army Staff (COAS) by the Prime Minister, and likewise Lieutenant General Sahir Shamshad Mirza has been designated as the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee (CJCSC). This brought to an end the hyperbolic diatribe that had been underway for weeks as to who will be Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa’s successor — and that too at a time when political instability in the country is at its peak and economic crunch evident all over. Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, unlike his predecessors, by going with the pro-forma that came as an advice from the military establishment to the Ministry of Defence has turned a new leaf of meritocracy.

The issue, nonetheless, was far from over as the Presidency received the summary for the nomination of military top brass. President Dr Arif Alvi’s air-dash to Lahore to consult former prime minister Imran Khan over it is widely seen as an exercise to embolden civil supremacy. It was an endeavour to ensure that the most powerful office of the Establishment is non-controversial, and without misgivings. The PTI chairman’s endorsement of the nomination is a good omen for the fragile democracy in vogue, and will definitely go a long way in eulogising the rule of law and Constitution.

General Munir has many feathers in his cap and is a decorated officer. A recipient of Hilal-e-Imtiaz, he has served as director-general for both the Military Intelligence and the Inter-Services Intelligence. He served as Gujranwala Corps Commander before being moved to the General Headquarters as the Quartermaster General. Similarly, General Mirza comes from a very humble background and made a mark for himself by rising to the top echelons. He served as the Director General Military Operations during the last two years of Gen Raheel Sharif’s tenure. Before his current elevation, he was performing as the Corps Commander of Rawalpindi — one of the most strategic commands that any officer can hold.

There wasn’t any respite from conspiracies as General Munir was seen as a dark horse on his elevation. As he is supposed to retire on November 27, a prompt retention order from the Federal Cabinet under the Army Act was duly forthcoming. This motivated the pundits of gloom to start commenting on political precedence over legal and constitutional affairs. But the fact that serenity and rule of law has prevailed — and that too with unanimous political endorsement — is one of the biggest achievements after months of turmoil and abject institutional degeneration.

Published in The Express Tribune, November 25th, 2022.

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