Wednesday February 21, 2024

World media abuzz with change in Pak Army command

November 25, 2022

ISLAMABAD: The world media has widely appreciated changes in military command and new appointments in the Armed Forces of Pakistan, especially the Chief of Army Staff.

Gen Asim Munir’s military background has been extensively discussed by Indian media with a warning of caution since he had earlier served as the country’s spymaster and attained numerous achievements in that capacity. The wire services and other media forums have gathered the impressions of various experts from Pakistan regarding the changes.

Al Jazeera has quoted former defence secretary and retired Lt-Gen Asif Yasin Malik, who described General Asim Munir as an officer who has an “impeccable reputation” in the military. “In the military, your reputation matters greatly, and Asim Munir is very well regarded for his competence and capabilities.”

“So far, his career has been without controversy, and I think he can be an excellent chief,” he said.

Islamabad-based security analyst Muhammed Faisal said the new army chief will take charge at a time when the country is in crisis.

“The new chief has to navigate complex political, internal, and external challenges, with the economic crisis being the most urgent, as was acknowledged even by the outgoing army chief,” he told Al Jazeera.

The Indian magazine ‘The Week’ has reported that with general elections in Pakistan likely in the next four to six months and Imran Khan’s PTI widely expected to win, Khan may again be pitted against Gen Munir unless the duo decides to bury the hatchet and move on.

The implications of Gen Munir’s next appointment will not be of much consequence to India, as not much change for the better is expected under the charge of the man during whose watch as ISI chief the car bombing in Pulwama took place.

On Feb 14, 2019, an attack killed 44 Indian security personnel. As an old hand on the Kashmir issue with a considerable professional military and intelligence experience, Gen Munir is likely to continue with the same inflexible Pakistani position of seeking to resolve the Kashmir issue by adhering to the UN resolutions.

India Blooms News Service (IBNS) has reported that the Pakistan government on Thursday appointed former director-general of Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) officer Lt-Gen Asim Munir as chief of the army. Pakistan’s military is said to control the elected governments of the nuclear-armed country and to have executed several coups in the past. The new army chief’s appointment comes amid allegations that the army played a role in toppling the Imran Khan-led regime earlier this year.

The army chief of the South Asian nation always has a strong bearing on the direction of its ties with countries like China and the United States, as well as its already fragile relationship with immediate neighbour India.

According to the Reuters report, outgoing chief General Bajwa on Wednesday called Imran Khan’s accusations that a US-backed conspiracy ousted his government “fake and false.” He maintained that the military would have no role in national politics in the future. Imran Khan, wounded in a gun attack earlier this month during anti-government protests, is scheduled to lead a protest rally on Sunday in Rawalpindi, where the Pakistani army is headquartered.

The Voice of America (VOA) has stated based on its reporter dispatch that “Critics like Mohsin Dawar, chairman of the foreign affairs committee of the National Assembly, the lower house of parliament, voiced skepticism on whether the army chief-designate will be able to deliver on Bajwa’s pledge to take the military out of politics.”

Gen Bajwa’s tenure as army chief was one of the worst eras of military intervention. We don’t expect much from his replacement, as the institution’s corporate interests compel individuals to go beyond their mandate.

“Course correction is required for the country to survive,” Dawar, a member of Sharif’s coalition government, tweeted.

Critics say army interventions and inferences have hampered the democratic process from taking root in Pakistan, and they remain skeptical about the chances of the military becoming an apolitical institution.

“I would take Bajwa’s plea for the army to get out of politics with many grains of salt,” said Michael Kugelman, the director of the South Asia Institute at the Wilson Center in Washington, when asked for comment on claims by the incumbent military chief.

“The institution has been so entrenched in Pakistan’s political fabric for so long that it would be well-nigh impossible to engineer such a sharp shift,” Kugelman said in written comments to VOA. Pakistani politicians have long accused the military of orchestrating the removal of elected governments that do not fall into line with the powerful institution, particularly when it comes to making foreign and security policies or questioning the military’s commercial interests.

According to Indian television channel ZEE News, defence expert Devasher stated: “If problems in Pakistan escalate, and he has the experience. It’s quite possible; India should brace itself for him... and he has this thing on Pulwama. So, we need to be very careful on this particular score.” India has been closely watching the development as the new Pakistani army chief is expected to influence the government’s stance on Islamabad-New Delhi relations as well as Pakistan`s policies towards its “all-weather ally” China and also the United States. Pakistan has recently been taken off the watchlist of the global money laundering and terrorist financing watchdog, the Financial Action Task Force (FATF). The country is also facing an extremely precarious economic situation. According to experts, Gen Munir will have to watch his steps very carefully. But we will have to be extremely cautious.

According to Devasher, who has authored three books on Pakistan, Gen Munir has served both as head of military intelligence and as the head of Pakistan’s spy agency, Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI). He served in the position of head of military intelligence for 21 months, starting in 2017. In October 2018, he was appointed director-general of the ISI, but Bajwa removed him at the request of then-prime minister Imran Khan. Notably, Khan blamed the army for playing a part in his ouster earlier this year.

According to Devasher, during the reign of the PMLN government in Pakistan, four or five army chiefs were appointed without following seniority in the armed forces.

“For the first time, the Sharifs appointed the senior most in the hope that they did not make the mistake of not selecting the senior most in the past. Things should go smoothly now that the seniors have been chosen. So, we’ll have to wait and see if the Sharifs have better luck with the appointment of this army chief, who is the most senior,” Devasher said.