Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif appointed General Asim Munir as Pakistan’s next army chief, a move that could exacerbate Imran Khan’s high-stakes clash with the military.
The appointment was announced on Twitter by Information Minister Marriyum Aurangzeb. He will replace General Qamar Javed Bajwa, whose six-year term ends Nov. 29.
Defense Minister Khawaja Asif told reporters the appointment has been sent to President Arif Alvi, who belongs to Khan’s party. He expects no delays and the president’s approval will come later in the day.
Although the new appointment is likely to be a setback for Khan, who removed Munir as chief of the military’s elite spy wing, the Inter-Services Intelligence, within eight months of his appointment. He was replaced by an officer close to Khan.
A quartermaster general, Munir oversees supplies for all military units at army headquarters. In addition to leading the ISI, General Asim Munir has also led the military intelligence department. Under Bajwa’s direct command, he served in the often-troubled northern regions bordering Afghanistan, China, and India.
Pakistan’s foreign and defense policies are heavily influenced by the appointment of its army chief, which has outsized influence over the country’s politics. Since its creation in 1947, the army has also ruled the nuclear-armed nation directly.
The announcement has garnered even more attention as tensions between the military and Khan have risen. In April, Sharif allegedly colluded with the US to manipulate his exit from office through a no-confidence vote. Khan, on the other hand, accused the army of not doing enough to save his government. This is a charge all three have denied.
He has also accused Sharif and a powerful general from the military’s spy wing of being responsible for a shooting attack earlier this month.
Following his success in recent by-elections, Khan is confident he can win snap elections after leading his supporters in large rallies and marches. The new army chief should also be appointed by the new government, giving him a chance to make the crucial choice.
“The new chief and the core military leadership will likely struggle to manage Khan’s populism and popularity because it could return him to power in the 2023 elections next year,” Kamran Bokhari, director of analysis at the New Lines Institution for Strategic & Policy in Washington says.
Markets reacted cautiously to the announcement. KSE-100 Index climbed 0.3% to 42,994.2. While the rupee held steady, Pakistan’s 7.375% 2031 dollar bond traded at 32.6 cents on the dollar.
Adnan Khan, head of international sales at Karachi-based Intermarket Securities Ltd., said investors are concerned about possible delays in getting the president’s approval.
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