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Pulwama attack architect Asim Munir to be Pakistan’s new army chief

Asim Munir

Lieutenant General Asim Munir has been named as the new Pakistan Army chief to replace incumbent General Qamar Javed Bajwa, Pakistan’s information and broadcasting minister announced on Thursday.

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, Cabinet Secretariat.

“It was under his (Lt Gen Munir’s) watch that the Pulwama attack took place and he was DG of the ISI in November and this happened in February 2019. He also served in the areas in the core that overlooks or deals with Kashmir in India. So, he is very familiar with this area” Devasher told ANI in an interview.

Tensions between India and Pakistan escalated following the suicide attack in which 40 CRPF personnel lost their lives when their convoy was attacked on the Jammu Srinagar highway on February 14, 2019.

Lt Gen Munir is expected to take over as Pakistan Chief of Army Staff (COAS) from 61-year-old Bajwa, who is scheduled to retire on November 29.

On the impact of General Munir becoming the new army chief of Pakistan, Devasher said, “No army chief of Pakistan has been friendly towards India. So, Asim Munir is not going to break the mould. He will continue to have a hardline stance towards India.”

Devasher said, “If problems in Pakistan escalate and he has the experience. It’s quite likely, India should have to be prepared that he is going to be…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 “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.

Experts say Pakistan has always used terrorist attacks against India to keep tensions high.

“…they cannot afford to do anything against India, given India’s previous strong reaction that if you do anything, we will hit you back.” As a result, he (Lt Gen Munir) will have to tread carefully. But we must exercise extreme caution.” According to Devasher, a Pakistani author of three books.

Lt Gen Munir has served as the head of both Military Intelligence and Pakistan’s spy agency Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI). He was the head of military intelligence for 21 months, beginning in 2017.

In October 2018, he was appointed director-general of the ISI, but he was removed by Bajwa at the request of then-Prime Minister Imran Khan. Notably, Khan has blamed the army for his ouster earlier this year.

According to Devasher, four or five army chiefs were appointed without regard for seniority in the armed forces during the PML(N) government’s reign in Pakistan.

Devasher told, “For the first time, the Sharifs have appointed the senior most in the hope that they have made the mistake in the past of not picking the senior most. They are now selecting the senior most senior, so hopefully everything will go smoothly. So we’ll have to wait and see if the Sharifs have better luck in appointing this army chief, who is the most senior in rank than they have in the past.”

Earlier today, Pakistan’s Information and Broadcasting Minister Marriyum Aurangzeb confirmed the appointment of Lt Gen Munir as COAS in a tweet. She also announced Lieutenant General Sahir Shamshad Mirza’s appointment as chairman of Pakistan’s joint chiefs of staff.

Aurangzeb tweeted, “The Prime Minister of Pakistan, Muhammad Shahbaz Sharif, has decided to appoint Lt. Gen. Sahir Shamshad Mirza as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Lt. Gen. Syed Asim Munir as Chief of Army Staff using constitutional authority. A summary of this has been sent to Pakistan’s President.”

Earlier on Wednesday, Pakistan’s Prime Minister’s Office confirmed receipt of the summary for the appointment of the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee and the chief of the Army Staff.

Dhanshree Badhe

Dhanshree Badhe

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