President signs off on top military appointments; Lt Gen Asim Munir to be next army chief

President Dr Arif Alvi on Thursday formally approved Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif’s nominations for the next army chief and Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee (CJCSC), hours after receiving a summary in this regard.

Lt Gen Asim Munir has been named as the chief of army staff and Lt Gen Sahir Shamshad Mirza has been named as the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee.

The confirmation of the president’s approval was given by Defence Minister Khawaja Asif, putting an end to weeks’ long speculation. However, an official handout from the President’s office is still awaited.

Talking to media persons in Islamabad, Asif said that the advisory sent to President Alvi by the government has been approved. “The president has signed [the summary],” he said, calling it a “good omen”.

claimed President Alvi would “definitely” consult him as soon as the summary for the appointment of next army chief reaches his office.

“President Alvi will definitely consult me on the summary for the appointment of army chief and take a decision as per the law and Constitution. I am head of the party that Dr Alvi belongs to,” he remarked while speaking to journalists at his Zaman Park residence on Wednesday.

After the names were made public, PTI Senator Shibli Faraz said: “It is President Alvi’s moral obligation to consult with the party chairman and I believe he should.

“This is not an obstacle. As Imran Khan said earlier, whatever happens will be within the law and Constitution.”

extended for three years by then-prime minister Imran Khan in Aug 2019, just three months before he was set to retire.

Despite speculation about him seeking another extension, Bajwa had indicated several months ago that he planned to retire this year.

His retirement plan was later confirmed by the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) on at least a couple of occasions and the general had himself in the last few months twice made it clear that he had no intentions to carry on — once during his visit to the United States and then again, while speaking at the National Security Workshop at National Defence University.

The next army chief’s appointment is at times mentioned as one of the major subplots in the ongoing political crisis engulfing the country which began earlier this year following the tabling of a no-trust motion against Imran.

Doubts about Bajwa’s retirement plan had been so strong that Imran, when faced with the vote of no-confidence, suspected that the political move against him was linked to Gen Bajwa’s impending retirement. He had, therefore, offered an indefinite extension to Gen Bajwa in a bid to pre-empt the then opposition’s vote against him, as per a recent presser by senior military officials.

Gen Bajwa started his farewell visits to formations on Nov 1 with a visit to the Army Air Defence Command and followed up the next day with a visit to Armed Forces Strategic Forces Command. Since then, he quietly toured a number of formations.

In a farewell address, Gen Bajwa acknowledged that the military received criticism for “unconstitutionally interfering in politics”, and at the same time criticised political parties for erring and being intolerant towards rivals.

He also called on political stakeholders to reflect on their attitudes as the “army had started its catharsis” as he emphasised the need for the restoration of political stability.