Islamabad, Pakistan – Pakistan’s Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif has named Lieutenant General Asim Munir as the new army chief.
Information minister Marriyum Aurangzeb announced the appointment on Twitter on Thursday, ending weeks of speculation over what some call the most powerful position in the South Asian nation.
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Pakistan’s military has directly ruled the country of 220 million people for nearly half of its 75-year history.
Lieutenant General Sahir Shamshad will take charge as the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee, Aurangzeb added in her tweet.
Munir will replace General Qamar Javed Bajwa who will end his six-year tenure as army chief on November 29.
PM Sharif held a cabinet meeting earlier on Thursday where he selected Munir from a list of six nominees for the top military post.
Munir is currently posted at the army headquarters in Rawalpindi. He has served briefly as chief of the country’s premier intelligence agency, the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI).
President Arif Alvi, who is also the supreme commander of Pakistan’s armed forces, on Thursday evening, approved the nomination of Munir and Shamshad.
Alvi belongs to the opposition Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party, headed by former Prime Minister Imran Khan, who earlier accused the government of trying to pick a favourite as the army chief.
In a tweet earlier, Defence Minister Khawaja Asif wondered if Alvi “will pay heed to political advice or to the constitutional and legal advice”.
“Now this is Imran Khan’s test if he wants to strengthen the institution which defends the country or make it controversial. It is also a test for President Alvi,” Asif wrote.
Soon after Information Minister Aurangzeb’s announcement on Twitter, the official handle of Khan’s PTI quoted its chief as saying both him and Alvi “will act according to constitution and law”.
The government has accused Khan of making the appointment of the new army chief controversial for political gains.
Former defence secretary and retired army officer, Asif Yasin Malik, told Al Jazeera Munir has an “impeccable reputation” in the military.
“In the military, your reputation matters a great deal and Asim Munir is very well regarded for his competence and capabilities. So far, his career has been without any controversy and I think he can be a very good chief,” he said, hoping the presidential approval of the nomination goes smoothly.
Islamabad-based security analyst Muhammed Faisal said the new army chief will take charge at a time when the country is in crisis.
“The new chief has to navigate complex political, internal and external challenges, with the economic crisis being the most urgent, as was acknowledged even by the outgoing army chief,” he told Al Jazeera.