homeworld NewsWho will become Pakistan's next Army Chief? From Asim Munir to Azhar Abbas, these are the top contenders

Who will become Pakistan's next Army Chief? From Asim Munir to Azhar Abbas, these are the top contenders

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By CNBCTV18.com Nov 23, 2022 3:23:18 PM IST (Updated)

Lt General Asim Munir, Lt General Sahir Shamshad Mirza, Lt General Azhar Abbas, Lt General Numan Mahmood, and General. Lt General Faiz Hameed are five potential candidates

As Pakistan's Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Qamar Javed Bajwa retires on November 29, the government is looking to appoint his successor and the names of the contenders are likely to be finalised this week.

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Pakistani Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif held two meetings on November 22 to discuss the key appointment.

Lt General Asim Munir, Lt General Sahir Shamshad Mirza, Lt General Azhar Abbas, Lt General Numan Mahmood, and Lt General Faiz Hameed are the five potential candidates as per the seniority list, The Express Tribune newspaper reported.

Among these, Lt Gen Sahir Shamshad Mirza and Lt Gen Azhar Abbas are considered old India hands.

Why does the appointment matter to India?

India is closely watching the development as the new Pakistani Army chief is likely to influence the government's tone on bilateral relations with New Delhi and Taliban-ruled Afghanistan. The new commander will have an influence on the most contentious issue between the two countries -- Kashmir.

In 2021, the outgoing chief Gen Bajwa had sanctioned the restoration of ceasefire agreement with India along the Line of Control (LoC). Whether India will face disturbance at the international border will depend on the approach of the new commander. He will also have influence over the government's decision to tilt towards China or the US.

Who is Lt General Asim Munir?

At present, Lt General Munir is the Quartermaster General at the General Headquarters in Rawalpindi and the senior-most officer. He has led the nation’s elite spy agency -- Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) - for a short period of time. It is said that former Prime Minister Imran Khan was unhappy with Lt General Munir and removed him within eight months as he is believed to have brought the alleged corruption charges against his wife to his notice. If the government goes by the principle of seniority, Lt General Munir is likely to be appointed as the new chief.

Lt Gen Asim Munir is said to have experience in matters relating to India. He was the ISI head when the hostilities between the two countries peaked following the Pulwama suicide bombing in February 2019. Lt Gen Munir was a key decision-maker in the military involved in shaping Pakistan’s response and security policies at that time, Hindustan Times reported quoting sources.

Some people in the ruling PML-N party favour bringing Lt Gen Asim Munir as the army chief as they believe he can stand up to Khan. However, he is set to retire a few days before the incumbent’s retirement, The Times of India reported.

Who is Lt General Azhar Abbas?

Lt General Azhar Abbas, the third person in the seniority list, is currently serving as the 35th Chief of General Staff of the Pakistan Army. In 2013, he joined the army as a private secretary to the Chief of Army Staff. Before that he served as Corps Commander Rawalpindi. Lt General Abbas is considered to be an expert on India due to his current position.

As the chief of general staff, Lt General Azhar Abbas is responsible for overseeing all operational matters. In his earlier position as the head of the Rawalpindi-based X Corps during 2019-21, Lt General Abbas oversaw operations in parts of Kashmir. He was responsible for implementing the ceasefire on the LoC when it was revived in February 2021.

Who is Lt General Sahir Shamshad Mirza?

Lt General Sahir Shamshad Mirza lost his parents at an early age and worked hard to rise to his position. He is believed to mention the name of his unit in the parents’ column.

Lt General Mirza is a three-star general and the senior-most officer serving in the army after General Bajwa. He is said to be a frontrunner for two posts – Chief of Army Staff (COAS) and Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee (CJCSC), Dawn reported quoting a military source. Lt General Mirza hails from the Sindh Regiment, which is also the parent unit of the outgoing CJCSC, Gen Nadeem Raza. He came into prominence as director-general military operations (DGMO) under Gen Raheel Sharif. In that role, he oversaw strikes against the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and other militant groups in North Waziristan province, near the Afghan border, Bloomberg reported.

Lt General Mirza has also served as the Chief of General Staff (CGS), a key position considered as the de facto army chief, heading both the operational and intelligence directorates in the army.

Lt General Mirza enjoys a good reputation in the army and is not involved in any controversy.

Who is Lt General Numan Mahmood?

Lt General Numan Mahmood holds the rank of President of the National Defence University. Between November 2019 and November 2021, Lt General Numan Mahmood served as Corps Commander Peshawar before being replaced by Lt General Faiz Hameed.

Who is Lt General Faiz Hameed

Lt General Faiz Hameed is the most talked about three-star officer who is currently serving as Corps Commander Bahawalpur. Earlier, Lt General Hameed was the Corps Commander Peshawar. He has served a long stint at the ISI, holding positions of the DG Counter-Intelligence and DG ISI. Lt General Hameed rose to prominence after his name surfaced as the DG-C in ISI following an agreement signed by the government with Tehreek-e-Labaik to end the three-week long sit-in at Islamabad. A high court judge also pointed out Lt Faiz Hameed had put pressure on the judiciary to not give relief to ousted Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif before the July 2018 elections. It is also believed that Imran Khan planned to appoint General Hameed as the army chief, even though the former prime minister denied the claim.

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