Pakistan to appoint former spy chief as new head of army
Islamabad, Pakistan CNN —Pakistan on Thursday named former spy chief Lt. Gen. Syed Asim Munir as chief of the South Asian country’s army, ending weeks of speculation over an appointment that comes amid intense debate around the military’s influence on public life.
In a Twitter post, Information Minister Marriyum Aurangzeb said Munir’s appointment would be ratified once a summary sent by Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif had been signed by the country’s president.
Munir, a former head of the country’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency, will take over from Army Chief Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa, who will retire on November 29 after six years in what is normally a three-year post.
Munir’s appointment may prove controversial with supporters of former Prime Minister Imran Khan, who was ousted from office in April after losing the backing of key political allies and the military amid accusations he had mismanaged the economy.
Munir was removed from his office at the ISI during Khan’s term and the former prime minister has previously claimed – without evidence – that the Pakistani military and Sharif conspired with the United States to remove him from power.
Both the Pakistani military and US officials have denied Khan’s claims.
He will also have to navigate the country’s notoriously rocky relationship with its neighbor India.
Pakistan, a nation of 220 million, has been ruled by four different military rulers and seen three military coups since it was formed.
No prime minister has ever completed a full five-year term under the present constitution of 1973.
Uzair Younus, director of the Pakistan Initiative at the Atlantic Council, said the military institution “has lost so much of its reputation,” and the new chief had plenty of battles ahead.
“In historical terms an army chief needs three months to settle into his role, the new chief might not have that privilege,” Younus said.
“With ongoing political polarization there might be the temptation to intervene politically again.”