Islamabad [Pakistan], November 28 (ANI): The hype and hoopla created over the appointment of Pakistan's new army chief came to rest after General Asim Munir and General Sahir Shamshad Mirza were notified as the next chief of army staff (COAS) and chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee (CJCSC) respectively on November 24.
Munir, who was to retire on November 27, two days before Bajwa completed an extended tenure of almost six years, was among six generals in the race for the top post -- a cause for much uncertainty and speculation till this week.
People familiar with the matter in Pakistan said Munir's reputation as a straight military officer who played by the book helped him clinch the post.
There was an unprecedented hysteria and frenzy in Pakistan by former Prime Minister of Pakistan Imran Khan, his followers and his social media brigade after the PTI government was thrown out of the power corridors of Islamabad in April.
The government has accused Khan of making the appointment of the new army chief controversial for political gains.
For the last month, Pakistan was literally paralysed administratively and economically because of the delay in the appointment of the army chief who is considered the most powerful personality with all political stakeholders dying for his blessings.
Notably, Pakistan's military has directly ruled the country of 220 million people for nearly half of its 75-year history.
It is imperative to analyze as to how the decision to appoint Asim Munir was taken and what factors were behind it. How did one Lt Gen manage to become the chief?
The selection, which caps weeks of speculation, was confirmed after President Arif Alvi signed a summary sent by the premier.
Lt Gen Munir was promoted to the rank of a three-star general in September 2018, but he took charge two months later. As such, his four-year tenure as Lt Gen ends on November 27, around the same time when incumbent Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee Gen Nadeem Raza and Chief of Army Staff Gen Bajwa will be doffing their army uniform, reported Dawn.
Lt Gen Munir entered the service via the Officers Training School programme in Mangla and was commissioned into the Frontier Force Regiment.
He has been a close aide of Gen Bajwa ever since he commanded troops in the Force Command Northern Areas as a brigadier under the outgoing army chief, who was then Commander X Corps.
Lt Gen Munir was later appointed Military Intelligence director general in early 2017, and in October next year was made the Inter-Services Intelligence chief, reported Dawn.
General Asim Munir is the first army chief of Pakistan who has been chief of both Military Intelligence (MI) and the ISI (Inter-Services Intelligence). Presently, General Munir is serving as the Quarter Master at the General Headquarters (GHQ).
However, his stint as the top intelligence officer turned out to be the shortest ever, as he was replaced by Lt Gen Faiz Hamid within eight months, on the insistence of then-PM Imran Khan.
He was posted as Gujranwala Corps commander, a position he held for two years, before being moved to the General Headquarters as the quartermaster general.
General Asim Munir was among those in Pakistan who oversaw the 2019 Pulwama terror attack, according to Tilak Devasher, a member of the National Security Advisory Board (NSAB) and who retired as Special Secretary, the Cabinet Secretariat. Notably, the tensions between India and Pakistan escalated after the suicide attack in which 40 CRPF personnel lost their lives when their convoy was attacked on February 14, 2019.
It is also yet to be seen as to what future course of action Imran Khan, the dismayed ex-prime minister, decides to pursue in the coming days.
First of all, the reality is that outgoing army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa despite all announcements by the DG ISPR, DG ISI, and himself was desirous of an extension.
Prima facie, he took a position as if he doesn't want an extension; he was actually striving hard for it. He was pursuing two game plans. He should get as much extension as possible under the army act.
The second was that if it is not possible, the army chief of his choice should be appointed. He was following a comprehensive strategy in this regard. He had created a certain atmosphere for this purpose.
PTI and its chairman Imran Khan had no objection. Had the government initiated the matter of extension, Imran Khan would have accepted it immediately. That was why an atmosphere of consensus on the extension issue between Bajwa and Imran Khan was present.
During such kind of manoeuvring, the former pursued policy of soft-peddling against Imran Khan creating an impression of the former prime minister being a blue-eyed boy.
It is noteworthy that Bajwa was doing this not for the first time. At the time of his first extension, he had been playing on both sides of the wicket. It was because he secured votes from both the treasury and opposition benches on the army act. He was working on the same plan this time too.
Sources close to PML (N) say that the snatching of the Punjab government from the hands of the ruling coalition was the main reason behind his failure in getting a second extension.
Moreover, Punjab chief minister Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi in private gatherings used to claim that he took the side of Imran Khan on the direction of Bajwa.
The ruling coalition had a strong grudge against Bajwa, alleging behind closed doors that it lost Punjab because of Bajwa. General Bajwa continued thinking that Punjab is a trump card in his hand.
Whenever Punjab was discussed, General Bajwa would assure that they will tackle Punjab after he gets strengthened after the extension, while on the other hand, the ruling coalition wanted Punjab back first.
This was the turning point in the ties between Bajwa and the government. The ruling coalition decided not to get blackmailed through the Punjab card. The trust between Bajwa and the government got fully shattered.
Now the question is as to why Sahir Shamshad was not made the army chief. The answer is that he was the candidate of Qamar Javed Bajwa, who wished that Sahir Shamshad should be made the army chief if he was not granted an extension.
On the other hand, the ruling coalition was of the view when he isn't given an extension, why should his representative be appointed army chief?
If General Bajwa had the potential to get his demands met, he would've taken an extension himself. There was no need of getting his representative appointed as army chief. When the situation became unfavourable for General Bajwa, it did happen so in the case of his representative also.
In this way, the ruling coalition won the battle of timing with General Bajwa. General Bajwa continued losing while prolonging the matter. PM Shehbaz Sharif's isolation in the disguise of the COVID-19 pandemic proved an important factor in sending Bajwa back home.
The coalition government, mainly Nawaz Sharif was in search of a neutral candidate, who could be made the army chief after General Bajwa. That kind of person should neither be a candidate of Bajwa, nor a supporter of Imran Khan.
Thus, there was no scope for Lt General Faiz, though his name was on the list. While Sahir Shamshad was unacceptable because of being a candidate of Bajwa, Faiz Hameed was also unacceptable due to being a staunch supporter of Imran Khan.
Lt General Faiz was constantly in touch with Sharifs in London for lobbying. Even before the no-confidence vote, he had requested Nawaz Sharif not to create any hurdle in his way. He had forgotten that he had lost the trust of political parties in 2018 and there was no one to trust him.
In fact, the no-confidence vote was against General Faiz and not against Imran Khan. It was aimed at blocking the path of Faiz Hamid. Imran Khan's willingness to support the second extension of Bajwa was also an effort to open the path for General Faiz.
It was a formula to keep him in the game. Early elections demand was also aimed at appointing Faiz as army chief. Imran khan had left no stone unturned for early elections prior to the appointment of the new army chief.
His willingness for elections in March 2023 was also for this purpose because Faiz Hamid's retirement was due in April. However, Imran Khan failed in achieving his target even by creating unprecedented instability in the country.
In the quest for a suitable candidate, Lt Gen Azhar Abbas also figured. He was a good candidate but was included in Bajwa's Plan B. He used to be considered that type of neutral, who played on both sides of the wicket. He was close to Bajwa but at the same time not much opposed to Lt General Faiz. He had good ties with Faiz and his opponents. His habit of playing on both sides became a hurdle in his way.
It is a common impression in power circles that Lt General Amir and General Nauman during their entire service remained on the one side, while General Faiz and General Sahir Shamshad remained on the other side.
On the other hand, Azhar Abbas continued playing on both sides. It is significant that all four generals are coursemates.
Lt General Nauman and Lt General Faiz have also served together in ISI, but at that time General Faiz was reigning supreme in the Intel agency. Both of them weren't on good terms. Even today their relations are not cordial. Lt General Amir was branded as the choice of Asif Zardari, which became an obstacle in his way. The noon league didn't want to take any risk, therefore, there was no chance left for Lt General Amir.
Asif Zardari had this realization that is why; he wanted him to appoint Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee.
His formula was that with General Amir becoming chairman, the remaining generals in the seniority list will automatically retire. He had floated a formula that PML (N) should appoint its own chief, while the Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee should be of his choice.
The PML (N) was ready for it, but the summary was again stopped as General Bajwa again started playing his game and in this way Sahir Shamshad's name was floated. General Bajwa in light of saying "something is better than nothing" agreed over the slot of CJCSC.
As far as General Asim Munir's credentials for becoming army chief was that he had been removed from the post of DGISI by Imran Khan for personal reasons including his complaint about corruption by Bushra Bibi, and difference over Imran's demand of crushing of opposition parties. Imran Khan was openly opposed to Asim Munir and it was evident from the fact that his order got issued.
Because of heightened animosity, Imran Khan continued blocking his path. He used to talk about playing with the appointment was also aimed at stopping his appointment.
How can a person be acceptable to him as an army chief who wasn't acceptable as DGISI? The person who was removed from the office of DGISI has now become the army chief. This is why; Asim Munir was the best choice.
His being the most senior is meaningless. Even if he had not been the most senior general, he would've been the best choice for today. His ouster from the office of Imran Khan became his top quality. (ANI)