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Pakistan names former spymaster as new army chief

Published : Thursday, 24 November, 2022 at 5:48 PM  Count : 360

Syed Asim Munir

Syed Asim Munir


Pakistan's government nominated a former spymaster Thursday (November 24, 2022) to be the next military chief, a position long considered the real power in the nuclear-armed Islamic nation of 220 million people, reports AFP.

Syed Asim Munir, currently quartermaster general, will replace General Qamar Javed Bajwa, who is retiring this month after serving as chief of army staff since November 2016.

"The process has completed in accordance with the law and constitution," Defence Minister Khawaja Muhammad Asif told reporters, adding the nomination had been sent to the president for confirmation.

Pakistan's military, the world's sixth largest, holds undue influence over the nation and has staged at least three coups since independence in 1947, ruling for more than three decades.

Even during periods of civilian rule, the army chief has long been considered the real kingmaker and the appointment is freighted with huge political significance.

The army chief also has to handle multiple domestic security threats from rising militancy, as well as the delicate balance of power with arch-rival India, against who Pakistan has fought three wars.

Munir, the most senior of six officers considered for the top job, previously served as head of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) spy bureau.

He takes over at a time when Pakistan is riven by political strife, with former prime minister Imran Khan rallying supporters to stage mass protests pressing the government to call a snap election.

"The political process is very weak and democratic institutions are almost at a collapse," analyst Zahid Hussain told AFP.

"In this situation, the army automatically becomes an arbiter of power."

Munir served as ISI chief under Khan, but his stint ended in June 2019 after just eight months following a reported falling out with the former cricket star.

Defence minister Asif said Munir's nomination had been sent to President Arif Alvi -- a strong Khan ally -- for approval.

He warned Alvi that he "should not act under political influence" by attempting to stall the transition.

END/SZA



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