Pakistan names former spy chief as new head of army

Islamabad, Nov 24 (EFE).- Pakistan on Thursday appointed Lieutenant General Asim Munir as the new army chief, putting an end to weeks of speculation about who would lead the all-powerful army that wields considerable influence in the government.

Munir, a former head of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), will replace the current chief, General Qamar Javed Bajwa, who will retire on Nov. 29 after a six-year tenure, including one extension.

“The Prime Minister of Pakistan Shahbaz Sharif has decided to appoint Lt. Gen. Sahir Shamshad Mirza as the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Lt. Gen. Syed Asim Munir as the Chief of the Army Staff using [his] constitutional authority,” Information Minister and government spokesperson Marriyum Aurangzeb announced on Twitter.

Under the country’s constitution, the prime minister picks the army chief from a list of names of top army generals sent by the military headquarters, which then has to endorsed by the president.

Munir’s appointment will be made official once Pakistan’s President Arif Alvi approves the decision.

The head of state, who belongs to former Prime Minister Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party, can consider the appointment for up to 15 days.

Khan, ousted from power in April after losing a no-confidence motion moved by the current prime minister, blames the military for taking part in what he calls “operation regime change”, which he says was carried out by his opponents but led by the United States.

The army has played an important role in both the domestic and foreign policy of the country, which has been ruled directly by the army for half of its 75-year history.

On Wednesday, outgoing army chief Bajwa admitted that the army had unconstitutionally interfered in politics for seven decades.

“Our army which, day and night, remains busy in serving the nation is often made the subject of criticism,” he said in an address at the Defense and Martyrs Ceremony at the General Headquarters in Rawalpindi.

“A major reason for this is the army’s interference in politics for the last 70 years, which is unconstitutional,” he added.

In February last year, Bawa declared that, after much deliberation, the army had decided that it would never interfere in any political matter.

However, many analysts and opponents are skeptical of the army chief’s statement.

Bajwa also rejected Khan’s claim that a foreign conspiracy hatched by the US was behind his ouster, calling it “fake and false.”

Meanwhile Khan, who was injured in a gun attack earlier this month during anti-government protests, has called a large rally in Rawalpindi on Saturday to demand early elections. EFE


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