Lt Gen Munir trained under the Mangla Officers Training School (OTS) programme prior to joining the Pakistan military. He has won the prestigious Sword of Honour, an honourary sword given to the best-performing cadet, in the OTS programme
Lieutenant General Asim Munir will take charge as the chief of the 600,000-strong nuclear-armed Pakistan army after the incumbent General Qamar Javed Bajwa retires today completing a six-year stint.
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Lt Gen Munir takes charge at a time when former Prime Minister Imran Khan, who was ousted from power by his opponents in April, is pressuring the government for fresh elections. The army in Pakistan wields a great influence on the politics and foreign policy of the country. Pakistan is also facing an economic crisis with exports sliding and the cost of food soaring. As the army chief, Lt Gen Munir will also have direct views on future relations with the country’s neighbour India on one side and the new Taliban government in Afghanistan on the other.
With Lt Gen Munir maintaining a low profile and avoiding public comments and controversies all these years, not much is known about what he thinks of the critical challenges in Pakistan, including civil-military relations and ties with India, Afghanistan, the US and China. However, he has held several key posts in the military, indicating that the top officials had been grooming him for the leadership role.
Who is Lt Gen Munir?
Lt Gen Munir trained under the Mangla Officers Training School (OTS) programme prior to joining the Pakistan military. He has won the prestigious Sword of Honour, an honourary sword given to the best-performing cadet, in the OTS programme.
In 1986, Lt Gen Munir started his military career as a Second Lieutenant at a time when the military dictator General Zia-ul-Haq was ruling Pakistan.
For some time, Lt Gen Munir commanded a division which overlooked Pakistan’s northern areas, including the disputed region of Pakistan-occupied Kashmir.
He is considered a close aide of Bajwa and worked in tandem with him when the latter headed the Pakistan army’s elite X Corps.
Prior to his appointment as the army chief, Lt Gen Munir held the position of Quarter Master General at the army headquarters in Rawalpindi.
Earlier, he was made the head of Military Intelligence (MI) in 2017, which looks after the army’s internal affairs. The following year, Lt Gen Munir was promoted to a three-star general and given charge of the country’s premier spy agency, the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), an organisation seen as intrinsically inimical towards India. However, he only served as the head of ISI for eight months, which remains one of the shortest in the army’s history.
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Fallout with Imran Khan
Although there were no official reasons provided on why the ISI chief was fired, it is believed that a fallout with then Prime Minister Imran Khan cost Lt Gen Munir his job as the ISI director-general. Earlier this year, an alleged audio clip of Aleem Khan, a former leader of Khan’s political party Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), surfaced where he accuses the cricketer-turned-politician of sacking Munir for exposing the corruption of his wife, Bushra Bibi, The Hindu reported.
For obvious reasons, Khan’s PTI steadfastly opposed Lt Gen Munir’s appointment as the new chief at a time when he is trying to make a comeback through political mobilisation across the country.
Some analysts opine Pakistan's domestic issues in the political and economic spheres will keep the new army chief engaged and away from focusing on India. However, others consider Munir as a ‘hardliner’ who could be more rigid in his approach towards India than Bajwa.
One of the reasons cited for this view is Munir’s lack of experience at military training academies in the US or Britain, unlike his three immediate predecessors -- General Kayani, General Sharif and General Bajwa. According to analysts, Pakistani military officials graduating from foreign military academies have a more holistic worldview than those receiving training at home. Meanwhile, having served in conservative Saudi Arabia, Munir is viewed by New Delhi as being close to the regime, The Times of India reported.
“I expect continuity between Bajwa and Munir on India policy. Bajwa sought to limit tensions, as evidenced by the new border truce last year and his focus on more regional trade and connectivity, as well as Pakistan’s muted response to the errant Indian missile that landed in Pakistan,” The Hindu quoted Michael Kugelman, South Asia Institute Director at The Wilson Center, Washington DC, as saying.
As Munir will be looking to bring stability to Pakistan politically and economically, he would not like a fresh crisis to develop with India, Kugelman said.
Pakistan Army Chief General Asim Munir is said to be 'Hafiz-e-Quran,' which means he has memorised the holy book. While the local media is projecting his religious inclinations in his personal life as a "pride for Pakistan in the Islamic world", there is no indication that he has links to Pakistan's seminaries- radical or otherwise.
(Edited by : Sudarsanan Mani)
First Published: Nov 29, 2022 1:32 PM IST