Pakistan names Asim Munir as new chief of powerful army

Lieutenant-General Asim Munir will be taking over from the outgoing General Qamar Javed Bajwa as chief of the army. PHOTO: AFP

ISLAMABAD - Pakistan on Thursday named Lieutenant-General Asim Munir as chief of its army, an organisation that plays an extraordinarily influential role in the governance of this nuclear-armed nation.

Lt-Gen Munir, who also headed both of Pakistan’s powerful spy agencies, will take over from outgoing General Qamar Javed Bajwa, who retires later this month after a six-year term, the Defence Ministry said.

His appointment coincides with a dispute between the military and former prime minister Imran Khan, who blames the army for playing a part in his ouster earlier this year and who has been leading anti-government protests since then.

“It is based on merit, law and as per Constitution,” Defence Minister Khawaja Asif told reporters after announcing Lt-Gen Munir’s appointment.

The army has historically played a huge role in both domestic and foreign politics, and Lt-Gen Munir’s appointment could impact Pakistan’s fragile democracy, its relations with neighbours India and Taliban-ruled Afghanistan, as well as its pivot towards China or the United States.

Lt-Gen Munir is the 17th chief of the army since Pakistan gained independence from Britain in 1947, a period that has seen almost twice as many prime ministers in office.

He was quartermaster general – in charge of supplies for the entire army – and served in an area disputed with India that borders China, as well as in major financial supporter Saudi Arabia.

On Wednesday, outgoing army chief Bajwa said the military would have no role in national politics in the future, rejecting as “fake and false” Mr Khan’s claims that a US-backed conspiracy had toppled his government.

Mr Khan, who was wounded in a gun attack earlier this month during anti-government protests, has vowed to continue calling for early elections and plans to lead a protest on Saturday in Rawalpindi, home to the army’s headquarters. REUTERS

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