Appointment of a new army chief fuels unrest in Pakistan

The strained relationship with India, the nuclear arsenal, but also the vast real estate portfolio, a large portion of the government budget, and the general patriotic state of mind: Pakistan’s top army chief has a wide range of tasks. The granting of office is in many ways a more significant moment in the South Asian country than the arrival of the prime minister. This time it was extra for a new appointment Army chief Given that Pakistan is mired in an ongoing political crisis.

Thursday announced the government The former intelligence chief, Asim Munir, takes over from Gen. Qama Jawad Bajwa. He was commander of the armed forces after extending it for six years. Uzair Yunus said, who American think tank Atlantic Council The Pakistani politics ‘translate’ to the general public.

The military makes up one of the largest conglomerates in the country, giving the armed forces economic power. Politics is also often dominated by the military: the country has been under military rule for a total of thirty years since independence in 1947. Having a history of coups, the military is seen as a stabilizing agent that intervenes in crises—at least to protect its interests.

Former intelligence chief and Pakistan’s new army chief Asim Munir Photo ISPRY / REUTERS

The deposed prime minister

The outgoing General Bajwa managed to survive after a Chief Minister during his time at the top. His retirement comes at a difficult time, with a political crisis raging since February. Parliament impeached Imran Khan, a former cricketer who was elected prime minister in 2018, in April. This lost confidence in him due to the bad economy.

Khan once described the armed forces as the “only functioning body” in his country, but now it is the main driver of chaos. Since his ouster, his successor has accused Sharif and Bajwa of plotting against him with the help of the United States. He wants early elections.

The military cannot leave such allegations unanswered. last week Bajwa warned the opposition politician In his last televised speech: “Patience also has a limit.” According to him, the army under his command resisted the temptation to intervene in the crisis that had arisen.

However, sooner or later, the army will have to make its voice heard, says analyst Yunus: “Citizens are aware of the power that the military leadership has. In some cases, this intervention is more appreciated than others. But it is expected that the army leadership will be associated with The debate in Pakistan, be it about the economy, foreign policy or elections.

Munir, who was promoted to the rank of four-star general before being appointed army chief, will have little time to decide how much political intervention he deems appropriate for the army. An internal crisis demands his immediate attention, if only because his promotion does little to defuse the turmoil Khan has caused. The relationship between the two is bad: Munir was the head of Pakistan’s powerful intelligence agency between October 2018 and June 2019, but Khan has been removed from that position. “The shortest serving spy chief,” Yunus said. “It has not been officially announced why he had to leave so quickly, but it is clear that the relationship between them has been destroyed,” he added.

A failed attack took place on Imran Khan at a protest rally earlier this month: a sign of how the pillars of Pakistani politics are faltering

Munir is likely to be the current government’s first choice precisely because of this hostility. Now he does not have to fear that the new army chief will open a path back to the premiership for Khan. His party, PTI, has since issued official congratulations, but Khan himself has continued his opposition.

Do not march to Islamabad

Saturday said the former prime minister Thousands of supporters in the northern city of Rawalpindi. He admitted that he had failed to correct “this corrupt system” in his state. But now “PTI will withdraw from all local and national councils” rather than being part of them. His speech was part of a multi-day rally to rally as much protest as possible against Sharif’s government. Khan’s appearance on Saturday was his first since the shooting at a rally in Wazirabad three weeks ago, in which he sustained minor injuries. in Rawalpindi Pakistani media sources said that the PTI politicians ignored the warnings for their own safety.

Khan decided not to reach Islamabad, the final destination of his convoy in the original plan. The government will not be able to deal with its supporters: “I am not coming to the capital to spare our country from chaos.” He was planning another way to force the elections he wanted.

A confrontation with security forces in the capital, which he had previously feared, appears to have been averted. But it is clear that the arrival of a new army chief will not “only” restore stability to Pakistan this time.

General Bajwal retires on Tuesday. After his unusually long career, Where, according to the Pakistani media, he did a good job himself, withdrawing – from public life but also from behind the scenes, as Yunus believes. Then it’s up to Munir, who must focus on international security as well as the domestic political chaos.

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