President signs off on top military appointments; Lt Gen Asim Munir to be next army chief

President Dr Arif Alvi on Thursday formally approved Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif’s nominations for the next army chief and Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee (CJCSC), hours after receiving a summary in this regard.

Lt Gen Asim Munir has been named as the chief of army staff and Lt Gen Sahir Shamshad Mirza has been named as the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee.

The confirmation of the president’s approval was given in a statement issued by the Aiwan-e-Sadr.

“The president has 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,” the press release said.

“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.”

The statement said that the promotions and appointments were made under article 243(4) (a) and (b) and Article 48(1) of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan.

“In this regard, the President has signed the summary received in his office, today,” it added.

Key developments

  • PM picks Lt Gen Asim Munir as new COAS and Lt Gen Sahir Shamshad Mirza as CJCSC
  • President Alvi meets PTI Chief Imran Khan in Lahore before signing the summary
  • President signs off on PM’s summary after holding a meeting with PTI chief
  • New appointees call on PM Shehbaz, President Alvi
  • Defence Minister Khawaja Asif says president signing the summary is a “good omen”
  • Outgoing CJCSC General Nadeem Raza holds farewell meetings with president and PM

Hours before the statement was issued, Defence Minister Khawaja Asif, in a media talk in Islamabad, said that the advisory sent to President Alvi by the government has been approved. “The president has signed [the summary],” he said, calling it a “good omen”.

The defence minister said the process of the army chief’s appointment had “caused unrest” in the country but the matter was now “settled”. “I believe that all the people, especially politicians, should bring their behaviors under the ambit of the law and Constitution.”

The appointments were announced earlier today by Information Minister Marriyum Aurangzeb on Twitter — a tweet which was deleted and swiftly put up again — capping weeks of intense speculation on the matter.

In her tweet, Aurangzeb said the premier made the choice while exercising his constitutional authority.

The Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee is an inter-services forum that works for coordination among the three armed forces. The CJCSC also serves as the principal military adviser to the prime minister and the National Command Authority.

She went on to say that a summary of the same had been sent to President Arif Alvi.

Speaking to the media minutes after the announcement was made, Defence Minister Khawaja Asif said the matter had been decided according to the law and the Constitution, calling on the nation to refrain from viewing it through a “political lens”.

He expressed the hope that the president would not make the appointments “controversial” and would endorse the advice of the premier.

The defence minister reiterated that the president should endorse the premier’s advice so that a “controversy may not arise”. “This will also help our country and the economy to get on track. Currently, everything is at a standstill.”

He expressed the same in a tweet, saying that the advice had been forwarded to the president. He went on to say that it would now be a test for former premier Imran Khan where he could either strengthen the institution responsible for defending the country or make it controversial.

“This is also a test for President Alvi, whether he will follow political advice or the constitutional and legal advice,” he said. “As the Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, it is his duty to protect the country from political conflicts,” he said about Alvi.

New appointees call on PM Shehbaz, President Alvi

Later in the day, Lt Gen Munir and Lt Gen Mirza held separate meetings with PM Shehbaz and President Alvi.

A statement from Aiwan-i-Sadr said the new appointees called on President Alvi.

 President Arif Alvi meets Lt Gen Asim Munir at the Aiwan-e-Sadr on Thursday. — Photo by Naveed Siddiqui
President Arif Alvi meets Lt Gen Asim Munir at the Aiwan-e-Sadr on Thursday. — Photo by Naveed Siddiqui

It said Alvi congratulated Sahir Shamshad Mirza HI(M) on his promotion as General, and appointment as Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee and Syed Asim Munir HI(M) on his promotion as General, and appointment as Chief of Army Staff.

“The President expressed his best wishes for their success as CJCSC and COAS,” the statement added.

Separately, the PML-N tweeted videos of Lt Gen Mirza and Lt Gen Munir meeting the premier at the PM House. “The Prime Minister congratulated Lt Gen Syed Asim Munir and Lt Gen Sahir Shamshad Mirza and expressed his best wishes for his new responsibilities.”

Imran’s ‘consultation’ with Alvi

After receiving the summary from the prime minister earlier in the day, the president reached Lahore on Thursday afternoon to meet with Imran at the PTI chief’s Zaman Park residence, where he is recuperating from injuries he sustained in an assassination attempt.

PTI leaders Shah Mahmood Qureshi, Asad Umar and Fawad Chaudhry were also present at Imran’s Lahore residence.

Earlier, television footage showed Alvi’s convoy in the city.

Speaking to reporters outside the Zaman Park residence after the meeting, Fawad said in a brief statement that Imran and Alvi had discussed the army chief’s appointment. He went on to say that the president would be heading back to Islamabad.

“Between 6:30pm to 7pm, the Aiwan-i-Sadr will release a handout. Everything will be done in accordance with the law and the Constitution,” he said.

Earlier, PTI’s official account had quoted Imran Khan as saying “when the summary comes, I and the president of Pakistan will act according to the Constitution and laws”.

COAS appointment saga

Outgoing COAS Qamar Javed Bajwa was originally supposed to retire in 2019. However, his tenure was extended for three years by then-prime minister Imran Khan in Aug 2019, just three months before he was set to retire.

Despite speculation about him seeking another extension, Bajwa had indicated several months ago that he planned to retire this year.

His retirement plan was later confirmed by the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) on at least a couple of occasions and the general had himself in the last few months twice made it clear that he had no intentions to carry on — once during his visit to the United States and then again, while speaking at the National Security Workshop at National Defence University.

The next army chief’s appointment is at times mentioned as one of the major subplots in the ongoing political crisis engulfing the country which began earlier this year following the tabling of a no-trust motion against Imran.

Doubts about Bajwa’s retirement plan had been so strong that Imran, when faced with the vote of no-confidence, suspected that the political move against him was linked to Gen Bajwa’s impending retirement. He had, therefore, offered an indefinite extension to Gen Bajwa in a bid to pre-empt the then opposition’s vote against him, as per a recent presser by senior military officials.

Gen Bajwa started his farewell visits to formations on Nov 1 with a visit to the Army Air Defence Command and followed up the next day with a visit to Armed Forces Strategic Forces Command. Since then, he quietly toured a number of formations.

In a farewell address, Gen Bajwa acknowledged that the military received criticism for “unconstitutionally interfering in politics”, and at the same time criticised political parties for erring and being intolerant towards rivals.

He also called on political stakeholders to reflect on their attitudes as the “army had started its catharsis” as he emphasised the need for the restoration of political stability.

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