Islamabad, Nov 29 (EFE).- General Asim Munir took charge Tuesday as Pakistan’s army chief, considered the most powerful post in the country, replacing Qamar Javed Bajwa, who retired after six years at the helm.
At a ceremony held in the city of Rawalpindi, where the headquarters of the Armed Forces is located, Bajwa handed over the symbolic baton of command to his successor, before hugging him in an unusual gesture after a professional greeting.
“I have full faith that under his (Munir’s) leadership the army will reach new heights and his appointment will prove to be a positive for the country,” said Bajwa at the ceremony, which drew the curtains on a 44-year long career.
Munir was appointed to succeed Bajwa last week by Pakistani Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif after days of speculation about who would head Pakistan’s all-powerful army, which has ruled the country for half of its 75-year history.
Munir now becomes the 17th chief of the Armed Forces and the first to occupy the post after having headed the Inter-Service Intelligence Agency (ISI), the country’s main espionage corps.
His appointment comes at a time when the army faces rejection from a broad section of the Pakistani society, which considered Bajwa’s term controversial because of his tremendous influence on state politics, which goes against the Constitution.
The relationship between the general and former Prime Minister Imran Khan became tense over the past year. After Khan stepped down in April having lost parliamentary majority, he blamed the army as well as the United States for playing a role in his downfall.
Hence, many followers of Khan’s Pakistan Tehrek-e-Insaf (PTI) party celebrated the general’s retirement on social media while sharing images of themselves cutting cakes or handing out sweets.
Munir’s appointment also comes a day after Pakistan’s leading Taliban group, the Tehrek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), announced an end of its ceasefire with the government after negotiations between them apparently failed.
The TTP comprises of several tribal armed groups that has been fighting the Pakistani forces to topple the central government in Islamabad to impose their own brand of Shariah for over a decade now.
The group, known to be loyal to the Afghan Taliban, has carried out numerous terror activities, killing thousands of citizens and security forces in the country since its emergence in 2007.
After the Afghan Taliban seized power in neighboring Afghanistan, Pakistan has seen increase in the extremist activities by the TTP.
Soon after, negotiations between the TTP and Pakistani government started with the Afghan Taliban playing the role of mediator. EFE