Change of command and future challenges | BY Dr Mehmood-ul-Hassan Khan

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Change of command and future challenges

DESPITE print and electronic media baseless rumours, speculations of various political pundits and whimsical mad race of the sponsored social media groups the “Change of Command” of the highest military brasses has been smoothly executed in Pakistan.

General Asim Munir took over as the new chief of army staff (COAS) at a ceremony held at the General Headquarters (GHQ) in Rawalpindi.

Now hopefully, dust of unsuccessful desires will be accordingly settled very soon because of “changing power dynamics” and “game theory” independent actors in the country.

It seems that futile imaginations of political parties will be “stealthy” dashed to ground because of changing power structure and centres in the country and “merchants” of chaos, uncertainty, division and destruction will be propelled.

Ultimately, conspiracy theories and bashing campaigns against defence forces of Pakistan will be downed and dormant.

In a graceful ceremony outgoing COAS General Qamar Javed Bajwa passed the baton of command to Gen Munir, making the latter the country’s 17th army chief.

Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee General Sahir Shamshad Mirza has also been appointed thus it completed the “circle” of change of command in the country.

General Syed Asim Munir is a Hafiz-i-Quran. He is a professional, capable and principled military officer.

Hopefully, the appointment of Gen Munir as the “Military Chief” would prove to be positive for both the country and the army alike.

Interestingly, he has been appointed for the position because of his “seniority” not any so-called “political affiliation” as propagated by opponent political parties.

On the other hand, the new COAS, Gen Munir has “remarkable” military career and served in many key strategic positions.

He was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant General in September 2018 and was subsequently appointed as DG ISI.

He entered the service via the “Officers Training School program” in Mangla, and was commissioned into the Frontier Force Regiment.

He has been a close aide of Gen Bajwa ever since he commanded troops in the Force Command Northern Areas as a brigadier under the outgoing army chief, who was then Commander X Corps.

Moreover, Lt Gen Munir was later appointed Military Intelligence Director General in early 2017, and in October next year he was appointed in the “Inter-Services Intelligence” as its chief.

Unfortunately, he was turned out to be the shortest ever, as he was replaced on whims and wishes by former prime minister.

During his remarkable services he was posted as Gujranwala Corps Commander, a position he held for two years, before being moved to the General Headquarters as the Quartermaster General.

General Munir has graduated from Fuji School Japan, Command and Staff College, Quetta, Malaysian Armed Forces College, Kuala Lumpur and National Defence University, Islamabad which “vividly reflects” his diversified expertise in education and various disciplines.

He also has an “M Phil” in public policy and strategic security management from the National Defence University.

Moreover, the newly appointed COAS Gen Munir was also posted as a directing staff in Command and Staff College, Quetta, Brigade Major of a deployed infantry brigade in Kel, general staff officer, grade-2, CGS Secretariat and Chief of Staff of Mangla Corps Gen Munir has commanded 23 Frontier Force Regiment, Infantry Brigade, remained as a force commander in Northern Areas, Gilgit and Corps Commander 30 Corps, Gujranwala.

The army chief has also served as the Director General of Military Intelligence (MI). In 2018, Gen Munir was appointed as the Director General of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI).

He is the first COAS who has experience of both the premier secret agencies which is good omen for our national security and strategic priorities.

Hopefully, there would be “close liaison” in all the secret agencies in the country which would be good for national sovereignty and our “collective resolve” against terrorism in the days to come.

The new army chief is a keen sportsman, avid reader and traveller. He previously served as Corps Commander of XXX Corps (30 Corps) Gujranwala.

He was serving in GHQ as Quartermaster General prior to assumption of his charge as COAS.

General Asim Munir will now be leading the world’s sixth largest military force which is bravely engaged in the protection of long borders.

Hopefully under his command, our borders of East and West will be secured from India and TTP.

To conclude, General Asim Munir should have to keep an eye on India and its cross-border activities.

Complete “elimination” of any leftover militant, terrorist or banned groups should also be one of the most important priorities.

Maintenance of internal peace and harmony should also be main priority because of TTP most recent announcement of called off peace truce with Pakistan.

It suggests that Pakistan’s National Security Policy (NSP) should ensure the “safety”, “security”, “dignity” and “prosperity” of the citizens of Pakistan and consequently, it should be further “coordinated” under the command of new COAS.

Moreover, political neutrality of the defence forces of Pakistan should be strictly observed. In this regard, the previous COAS, General Qamar Javed Bajwa tried his level best to refrain from bias and focused on keeping the institution neutral.

The defence forces of Pakistan should support to hold free and fair environment and equal playing filed for everyone.

Since the incumbent government is reviewing its grand strategy with regard to the banned Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), which called off the ceasefire agreed with Islamabad in June, as part of a deal brokered by the Afghan Taliban.

All the stakeholders should now prepare a holistic and comprehensive security plan to deal with these bitter realities pertaining to our national and territorial integrity, socio-economic prosperity, societal harmony and last but not the least, ethnic diversity in the days to come.

Since the new Army Chief General Asim Munir had headed both the Military Intelligence (MI) and Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) during his career, therefore, he understood the dynamics of the TTP and Afghanistan.

As the ISI DG, Gen Asim spearheaded initial efforts aimed at facilitating direct talks between the US and the Afghan Taliban.

Given this background, the army chief is likely to give a crucial input to the incumbent government on the policy review on the TTP and Afghanistan.

It suggests that a meeting of the National Security Committee (NSC) should be arranged as soon as possible to discuss issues of national security and defence which should also be convened to discuss the possible new security strategy.

Hopefully, new culture of national security comprising people’s protection, food & energy security, education, water, climate, biodiversity and ethnic diversity will be prevailed and preferred on outdated doctrine of national security.

Further strengthening of military, secret agencies, police and paramilitary apparatus should also be updated through the ideal combination of human and artificial intelligence.

Last but not the least, true spirit of transparency, accountability, social justice, role of the law, eradication of poverty, ignorance, and elimination of land mafia must be rooted out because real security is the prosperity of common people.

—The writer is Executive Director, Centre for South Asia & International Studies, Islamabad, regional expert China, BRI & CPEC & senior analyst, world affairs, Pakistan Observer.