President Dr Arif Alvi on Thursday approved the summary sent by Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif for the appointment of Lieutenant General Syed Asim Munir as the next army chief and Lieutenant General Sahir Shamshad Mirza as the new Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee (CJCSC), ending days of speculations.
The development came following the president’s meeting with Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan at Zaman Park.
Footage of the president's caravan arriving at Imran's Lahore residence was shared on social media by the PTI amid claims that the two would discuss the party's plan of action ahead of the appointment for the army's top seat.
President Arif Alvi has arrived at Zaman Park Lahore to meet chairman PTI Imran Khan.#ملتے_ہیں_پنڈی_میں pic.twitter.com/H79mmIB7N1
— PTI Rwp Official (@PTIOfficialRWP) November 24, 2022
According to Express News, President Alvi also held a meeting with legal experts at the presidency and signed the summary following the meeting with Imran Khan.
The Ministry of Defence would formally issue a notification about the top military appointments.
Sources said that the new army chief and CJCSC would meet President Alvi soon.
Earlier in the day, Information Minister Marriyum Aurangzeb, taking to Twitter, said that PM Shehbaz had sent the summary to the president
"Using his constitutional powers, Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif has decided to appoint Lt Gen Sahir Shamshad Mirza as the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Lt Gen Syed Asim Munir as the Chief of the Army Staff."
وزیراعظم پاکستان محمد شہباز شریف نے آئینی اختیار استعمال کرتے ہوئے لیفٹنٹ جنرل ساحر شمشاد مرزا کو چئیرمین جوائنٹ چیفس آف سٹاف اور لیفٹنٹ جنرل سید عاصم منیر کو چیف آف دی آرمی سٹاف مقرر کرنے کا فیصلہ کیا ہے۔ اس بابت سمری صدر پاکستان کو ارسال کر دی گئی ہے۔
— Marriyum Aurangzeb (@Marriyum_A) November 24, 2022
As per the seniority list, Lt General Asim Munir, Lt General Sahir Shamshad Mirza, Lt General Azhar Abbas, Lt General Numan Mahmud, and Lt General Faiz Hameed were in contention for the job of chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee and army chief.
'Test for Imran'
Defence Minister Khwaja Asif also confirmed that "the advice has gone to President Alvi" indicating that the process of the new army chief's appointment has reached its final stages.
"Now, it is a test for Imran Khan whether he wants to strengthen the institution of homeland defense or make it controversial," the minister added.
ایڈوائس صدر علوی کے پاس چلی گئی ھے.اب عمران خان کا امتحان ھے وہ دفاع وطن کے ادارے کو مضبوط بنانا چاہتا ھے یا متنازعہ. صدر علوی کی بھی آزمائش ھے کے وہ سیاسی ایڈوائس پہ عمل کرینگےیاآئینی وقانونی ایڈوائس پہ. بحیثیت افواج کےسپریم کمانڈرادارے کو سیاسی تنازعات سےمحفوظ رکھنا انکا فرض ھے
— Khawaja M. Asif (@KhawajaMAsif) November 24, 2022
"It is also a test for President Alvi," he said, "whether he will follow political advice or constitutional and legal advice. As the Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, it is his duty to protect the country from political conflicts".
Speaking informally with journalists outside the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) on Wednesday, the defence minister had hinted that the new army chief may be appointed before PM Shehbaz embarks on a trip to Turkey on November 25.
Read: Govt has other plans if Alvi delays COAS’ summary
Gen Asim and Gen Sahir
Lt Gen Syed Asim Munir has diversified experience in the army. He has served as Corps Commander Gujranwala. He was also the DG ISI from October 2018 to June 2019. His short stint as head of the premier intelligence agency raised many eyebrows.
It was said at the time that then-prime minister Imran Khan was not happy with him since he was believed to have brought the alleged corruption of his wife to his notice. Imran was also thought to have been irked by Gen Asim’s resolve to go by the book.
Read: Army role in politics is unconstitutional, says Gen Bajwa
Gen Asim also served as DG Military Intelligence. He is considered as a frontrunner as the government has indicated that the principle of seniority would take precedence this time in the appointment of a new chief.
Lt Gen Sahir Shamshad Mirza is the second on the seniority list. He is Corps Commander Rawalpindi. He also served as Chief of General Staff (CGS), a key position most army chiefs held in the past.
CGS is known as the de facto army chief since he heads both the operational and intelligence directorates in the army. In simple words, every file in the army goes through his table.
Previously he served as Director General Military Operations. General Sahir has an interesting personal background. He lost his parents at an early age. He rose to this position with sheer hard work and struggle.
It is said that he mentioned his unit in the parents’ column. Those who know Gen Sahir closely say he enjoys a good reputation in the army. He is not involved in any controversy and there is not much debate about his candidature.
Govt has other plans if president delays
Under the Constitution, the president may stretch the appointment of the new army chief for 25 days. Sources told The Express Tribune that the government had several plans in case the president delayed the summary.
It has the authority to appoint the vice chief of army staff (VCOAS) as there is no requirement for the president's approval for this purpose.
The government may also promote a lieutenant general to a full-fledged general for extending the tenure of the officer whose retirement is due.
A government official expressed his surprise that an “unnecessary” discussion was underway over the possibility of delaying the army chief’s appointment summary. “I think this is not an issue at all,” he added.
A PTI leader told The Express Tribune said he did not think that President Alvi would delay the summary.
Imran, Alvi discuss army appointments
PTI chief Imran Khan said on Wednesday that President Arif Alvi was in contact with him and would consult him on the appointment of a new army chief as he was the party chief.
He asserted that if the prime minister can liaise with an “absconder” – a reference to PML-N supremo Nawaz Sharif – then the president can consult with me as I am the party chief.
“The president will absolutely discuss the matter with me,” he further said and added that he was not aware of who they will appoint but “the president and I have decided that we will play with this within the law and do whatever is in law and Constitution,” Imran said in an interview on a private news channel.
In an interview with Express News' anchorperson Javed Chaudhry during the programme "Kal Tak", Finance Minister Dar said that the appointment of Chairman Joint Chief of Staff (CJCSC) will be done before November 27, hoping that the entire process will be completed by November 28.
He added that both appointments can be done on two separate days.
"If the president tried to create hurdles in the appointment, we have plan B," the finance minister said while responding to a question.
Answering the question about the retirement of Lt. General Asim Munir on November 27, Dar said that the government has a "solution" for this as well.