Ambassadors of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates (UAE) called on Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Syed Asim Munir at General Headquarters (GHQ) in Rawalpindi on Thursday, the military said.
Matters of bilateral interest came under discussion during army chief’s separate meetings with Saudi envoy Nawaf Saeed A. Al Milkiy and UAE Ambassador to Pakistan Hamad Obaid Ibrahim Salem Alzaabi, the military’s media wing further said.
The meetings took place two days after General Asim took charge as the 17th Army chief of Pakistan at a ceremony held at the GHQ on Tuesday.
The change of command ceremony was held after a gap of six years, as General Qamar Javed Bajwa, now retired, was given a three-year extension in 2019.
Read more: New COAS Gen Asim takes reins
Hours after Gen Asim took charge, Prime Minister Shehbaz called the new army chief and congratulated him over his new role.
“It is no less than a blessing that Pakistan has got such a capable and courageous army chief,” the prime minister was quoted as saying in the official handout.
Gen Asim is the first army chief who headed both the Military Intelligence (MI) and the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI). General Ahsanul Haq was the other four-star who led both secret agencies but he was the Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee.
General Asim joined the army in 1986 through Officer Training School (OTS) Mangla and was awarded sword of honour. He was the number 1 in order of seniority when the summary was sent to the PM Office for the appointment of army chief.
The challenges for the new chief
The change of command in the army came at a time when the country is facing multiple challenges, including deepening political crises, resurgence of militancy. However, for Gen Asim, many observers believe, the single biggest challenge is to restore public image of the security establishment.
Under General Bajwa’s six-year extended tenure, the army faced criticism first from the PML-N, when it was in the opposition and now from the party of former prime minister Imran Khan.
“Knowing General Asim, I believe he will keep the army away from political matters,” commented a retired three-star, who was his senior after the change of command ceremony.
“He is a good officer. He has impeccable integrity. My advice to him will be to stay out of politics,” another retired general told Express Tribune after the ceremony.
Gen Bajwa, at the fag end of his tenure, attempted to withdraw the army from the political matters. Gen Asim is thought to be one of the officers, who strongly advocated for the army to stay neutral when the state institution was coming under increased scrutiny for its alleged meddling in politics.
The coalition government led by Prime Minister Shehbaz, who appointed Gen Asim as army chief, hoped that the army, under his command, will no longer play a role in politics.
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