Islamabad, Pakistan — Pakistan‘s Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif has appointed Lieutenant General Asim Munir as the new army chief.
Information Minister Marriyum Aurangzeb announced the appointment on Twitter on Thursday, ending weeks of speculation about what some call the most powerful position in the South Asian nation.
The Pakistani military has ruled directly over the country of 220 million inhabitants for almost half of its 75-year history.
Lieutenant General Sahir Shamshad will take over the leadership of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee, Aurangzeb added in her tweet.
Munir will replace General Qamar Javed Bajwa, who will end his six-year term as army chief on November 29.
Prime Minister Sharif held a cabinet meeting on Thursday, during which he selected Munir from a list of six nominees for the top military post.
Munir is currently stationed at army headquarters in Rawalpindi. He was briefly head of the country’s most important intelligence service, Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI).
Will the president agree?
Defense Minister Khawaja Asif said the names Munir and Shamshad had been sent to President Arif Alvi, who is also Commander-in-Chief of the Pakistan Armed Forces, for approval.
Alvi belongs to the opposition Pakistani Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party, led by former Prime Minister Imran Khan, who had previously accused the government of trying to pick a favorite as army chief.
In a tweet, Secretary of Defense Asif wondered whether Alvi will “pay attention to political advice or constitutional and legal advice.”
“This is Imran Khan’s test of whether he wants to strengthen the institution that defends the country or makes it controversial. It is also a test for President Alvi,” Asif wrote.
Shortly after Aurangzeb’s announcement on Twitter, Khan’s PTI’s official contact quoted his boss as saying that both he and Alvi “will act in accordance with the Constitution and law.”
The government has accused Khan of making the appointment of the new army chief controversial for political reasons.
Former Secretary of Defense and retired Army officer Asif Yasin Malik told CNN Breaking News that Munir has an “impeccable reputation” with the military.
“In the military, your reputation is very important and Asim Munir is highly valued for his expertise and skills. So far, his career has been undisputed and I think he can be a very good boss,” he said, hoping that the president’s approval of the nomination would go smoothly.
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Islamabad-based security analyst Muhammed Faisal said the new army chief would take command at a time when the country is in crisis.
“The new boss must face complex political, internal and external challenges, with the economic crisis being the most urgent, as even the outgoing army chief acknowledged,” he told CNN Breaking News.