Lieutenant General Asim Munir (right) and Lt Gen Sahir Shamshad Mirza. Image Credit: ISPR

Islamabad:  Lieutenant General Asim Munir has been appointed as Pakistan’s new army chief as President Arif Alvi approved Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif’s nominations for the top two military posts, ending weeks of speculation over the appointment.

Gen Asim Munir will replace the outgoing General Qamar Javed Bajwa, retiring on November 29 after completing a second three-year term. Lt Gen Sahir Shamshad Mirza has been appointed as the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee (CJCSC). The CJCSC office is technically the senior-most in the armed forces but the army chief office is the most powerful in the country.

Following the approval of their appointments, the new army chief and chairman of the joint chiefs of staff committee held separate meetings with the president and prime minister of Pakistan late Thursday evening, according to media reports.

PM names new Army Chief

PM Sharif held a cabinet meeting on Thursday where he selected the names of the officers for the top two military posts from among the six names suggested by the army. The government has forwarded the two names for approval to President Arif Alvi, who is also the supreme commander of Pakistan’s armed forces. Asim Munir, the country’s 17th army chief, was the senior-most in the list of six generals whose names were suggested by the army chief. Defence Minister Khawaja Asif had earlier said the appointments had been decided according to the law and the Constitution.

Experts hope the new appointments would help stabilize the situation in the country facing intense political polarization and economic crisis.

Lt Gen Asim Munir Image Credit: AFP
Who is Lt Gen Asim Munir?
Lieutenant General Syed Asim Munir, named by Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif as Pakistan’s new army chief, is the senior-most in the list of six generals whose names were suggested by the army for the most powerful office in the country. Munir will become Pakistan’s 17th army chief after approval from President Arif Alvi.

Munir is considered an “outstanding officer” who has the distinct experience of serving as both the chief of Military Intelligence in 2017 and the country’s premier intelligence agency Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) in 2019. Munir served as ISI chief during Imran Khan’s government but his stint ended in June 2019 after just eight months when he was replaced by Lt Gen Faiz Hamid who was believed to be Khan’s favorite but Khan said they only had a good working relationship.

Lt Gen Asim Munir until recently served as the quartermaster general at the army’s General Headquarters (GHQ) in Rawalpindi. He was the commander of the Gujranwala Corps for two years. He has also served as commander of the Force Command Northern Areas as a brigadier under Gen Bajwa who was then Commander X Corps. Munir has also received Hilal-i-Imtiaz, the country’s second-highest award.

General Asim Munir hails from Dheri Hassanabad area of Rawalpindi. He joined the Pakistan army via the Officers Training School programme in Mangla and was commissioned into the military's Frontier Force Regiment. Asim Munir was promoted to the rank of three-star general in 2018. His four-year tenure as lieutenant general was set to end on November 27 but will now serve another three years after being named the army chief.
Lt Gen Sahir Shamshad Mirza Image Credit: ISPR
Who is Lt Gen Sahir Shamshad Mirza?
Another key appointment decision of the day was the next Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee (CJCSC). This office is technically the senior-most position in the armed forces, however, the office of the army chief is considered the most powerful position in the country.
The joint chiefs of staff committee office promote coordination among the three armed forces. The chairman of the joint chiefs of staff committee also serves as the deputy chairman of the National Command Authority - the highest decision-making authority on nuclear and strategic policy issues.

Lieutenant General Sahir Shamshad Mirza, the second senior-most officer after Lt Gen Asim Munir, has been named CJCSC to succeed the outgoing Gen Nadeem Raza. Sahir Shamshad was currently posted as Commander X Corps (Rawalpindi) and was seen as a frontrunner for either of the two posts of COAS and CJCSC.

Sahir Shamshad hails from the district Chakwal of Punjab province and was commissioned in the 8th Battalion of the Sindh Regiment in 1985. He has served in senior military leadership positions for the past seven years including the post of director general military operations (DGMO). He rose to prominence as the director of general military operations during the former army chief Gen Raheel Sharif’s tenure when Shamshad was part of the core team that commanded the military operations against the banned Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and other militants in the Pakistan-Afghan border region.

Lt Gen Shamshad had been closely engaged in crucial decision-making related to national security and strategic affairs especially related to China and regional countries. He has also received the Hilal-i-Imtiaz military award. After his promotion to the three-star rank in 2019, he was appointed chief of general staff - the most prestigious office after the army chief.