ISLAMABAD: In a major development, President Dr Arif Alvi Thursday gave a nod to the appointment of Lieutenant General Asim Munir as the next chief of army staff of Pakistan while Lt General Sahir Shamshad Mirza has been appointed as the Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee (CJCSC).
Following a meeting with PTI Chairman Imran Khan, President Alvi signed the summary sent earlier today by Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif marking an end to the uncertainty surrounding the key appointment.
“President Alvi has promoted Lieutenant General Sahir Shamshad Mirza HI(M) to the rank of General with immediate effect and appointed him as chairman of joint chiefs of staff committee with effect from November 27, 2022,” a statement issued by the President’s Secretariat read.
The statement further mentioned that the president 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 November 29.
“These 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 read with Sections 8-A and 8-D of the Pakistan Army Act 1952,” the notification said, adding that the president has signed the summary received in his office today.
Lt Gen Munir, who was also Pakistan's chief spy, will take over from outgoing COAS General Qamar Javed Bajwa on November 29, who retires on the same day after a six-year term.
COAS Gen Bajwa, who was appointed as the army chief in 2016, will retire on November 29. He was initially set to hang up his boots in 2019, but the PTI-led government gave him a three-year extension.
Meanwhile, Lt General Shamshad will assume charge as joint chiefs of staff committee on November 27 as General Nadeem Raza will retire before Gen Bajwa.
Both — Lt Gen Munir and Lt General Mirza — met PM Shehbaz separately after the confirmation of their appointment as the new chief of army staff and joint chief of staff committee.
After the meeting with the premier, the two leaders left for Aiwan-i-Sadr to meet the president.
Ahead of their meeting with Alvi, the security staff of the COAS and CJCSC arrived at the President’s House for a security check.
Commenting on the development, PTI senior leader Fawad Chaudhry said the president’s decision is in line with the PTI chief’s suggestion and was taken after Khan backed it.
“The measures taken in these last eight months have damaged the country as attempts to sideline Khan wreaked havoc in the country,” he said, hoping that the news military leadership will play a positive role in the country.
The former information minister while congratulating the newly appointed COAS and CJCSC, reiterated that the only solution to bring political stability to the country is snap polls.
PM Shehbaz took to his Twitter handle to congratulate Lt General Munir and Lt General Mirza.
Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah welcomed the appointment of the new army chief and congratulated Lt Gen Munir and Lt General Mirza.
Meanwhile, National Assembly Speaker Raja Pervez Ashraf and Deputy Speaker Zahid Akram Durrani also extended their heartiest congratulation to the two military leaders.
President Alvi meets Imran Khan
President Alvi flew to Lahore to meet PTI chief Khan at his Zaman Park residence for a consultation on the army chief's appointment.
Addressing a press conference, after the president's departure, PTI senior leader Fawad Chaudhry said that the head of state and Khan discussed legal, political, and constitutional aspects of COAS's appointment.
"Meeting between Imran Khan and President Arif Alvi lasted 45 minutes. President Alvi has left for Islamabad," said Chaudhry outside the PTI chairperson's residence. He added that the president and Imran Khan discussed the constitutional, political and legal issues regarding the appointment of the army chief.
PM Shehbaz, using his constitutional authority, had decided to appoint Lt General Munir as the COAS and Lt General Mirza as CJCSC.
The decision was announced after PM Shehbaz held a federal cabinet meeting earlier today to mull over the high-profile appointments after the allied parties authorised him to pick the officers for the top slots.
Taking to Twitter, Aurangzeb confirmed that the summary for the appointments had been sent to President Arif Alvi on Thursday morning.
PM Shehbaz's nominee for the army chief was also retained by the federal government under the Pakistan Army Act.
But the uncertainty surrounding the president’s approval of the key appointments took centre stage after the head of the state departed to Lahore to hold a meeting with his party chief.
All eyes were on the meeting as Khan, in an interview Wednesday night, had said that he and President Alvi would play “legally and constitutionally” on the matter.
Lt Gen Asim Munir joined the Pakistan Army from the Mangala Officers Training School programme and then became a commissioned officer in the Frontier Force Regiment.
He commanded the Northern Areas Force as a brigadier and was appointed the director-general of the Military Intelligence in early 2017. In 2018, he was appointed as the director-general of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI).
Following this, he was posted as Corps Commander Gujranwala for two years. Currently, he is serving as the Quarter Master at the General Headquarters (GHQ).
He will become the first army chief who has headed both — the MI and the ISI. Lt Gen Munir will also be the first army chief awarded the Sword of Honour.
Lt Gen Sahir Mirza hails from the Sindh Regiment and served as the director-general of the military operations under former COAS Raheel Sharif.
Lt Gen Mirza also supervised the operations against terrorists in North Waziristan and was part of the coordination group that oversaw negotiations with Afghanistan.
He was also a member of the Gilgit-Baltistan Reforms Committee. After becoming a Lt Gen, Mirza was appointed as the Chief of the General Staff. Currently, he is serving as the Corps Commander Rawalpindi.
Defence minister hopes President won't make appointments 'controversial'
In a media talk and tweet posted immediately after the announcement, Defence Minister Khawaja Asif also confirmed that the “advice” over the appointments had been forwarded to President Alvi.
He expressed the hope that President Alvi wouldn't make the appointments “controversial” and would endorse the advice of PM Shehbaz.
"All the matters have been settled in line with the Constitution of Pakistan and hopefully the president will not create a controversy," Asif told reporters.
The minister refused to comment on Khan's claim of consultation with President Alvi over the matter. He said that he has tweeted on the matter.
Asif said that the Pakistan Air Force, navy, and army shouldn't be made controversial. Asif said that a detailed press release regarding the development will be issued.
"Now, it is a test [for] Khan if he wants to strengthen the national defence institution or make it controversial. It is also a test for President Alvi on whether he will follow political advice or constitutional and legal advice," Asif wrote on Twitter.
PTI, meanwhile, shared a statement from Khan, quoting him as saying: After the summary comes, I and the President of Pakistan will act according to the Constitution and laws.
Khan's statement comes a day after he claimed that President Alvi was in contact with him and would consult him on the appointment of the top two slots in the military.
“I am in contact with the president over the summary related to a key appointment,” the PTI chief told an anchor of a private TV channel. “I am in touch with him (the president). He will discuss everything with me. The prime minister goes to an absconder so I am a party head. He will absolutely discuss [the matter] with me.”
Former federal minister Shibli Faraz, on his party's behalf, said that it wouldn't create any obstacles over the army chief's appointment.
The statement came in response to a question if there was a possibility that President Alvi would hinder the approval of the summary sent to him.
"PTI will not create any obstacles in the army chief's appointment," Faraz said.
In response to the speculations that President Alvi might not ratify the summary from the prime minister, Federal Minister for Finance Ishaq Dar said that the government has a "Plan B".
"The decision to appoint officers on both posts based on merit is applaudable. May God bless the ones who will take up new responsibilities," he said in a statement.
He added that the appointments to the two top posts would be finalised by November 28. "If the president creates hurdles, then we have a Plan B."
He said that both appointments could be done on different days as it wasn't binding to make them both on the same day.
Outgoing COAS General Bajwa was due to retire on November 29, 2019, at the end of his stipulated term, but was given a three-year extension in service by then-prime minister Khan on August 19, 2019.
There had been wide speculation about whether or not General Bajwa will seek another extension. However, the COAS indicated several months ago that he planned to retire this year.
This was also confirmed by the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) at least a couple of times, while General Bajwa clearly stated twice on separate occasions that he had no plans to stay on the post.
The general is currently paying his farewell visit which he started on November 1 with a visit to Army Air Defence Command and followed up the next day with a visit to Armed Forces Strategic Forces Command.
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