General Asim Munir took over as the new chief of army staff (COAS) at a ceremony held at the General Headquarters (GHQ) in Rawalpindi on Tuesday.
Outgoing COAS General Qamar Javed Bajwa passed the baton of command to Gen Munir, making the latter the country’s 17th army chief.
Gen Munir was selected by Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif to succeed Gen Bajwa last week, ending days of speculation over the appointment. According to Radio Pakistan, Gen Munir will be the 17th army chief to assume the command of the Pakistan Army.
Prior to the ceremony, both Gen Bajwa and Gen Munir laid a wreath at the Yadgar-i-Shuhada (Monument to Martyrs) in GHQ and offered fateha.
The ceremony, which began shortly after 10am, kicked off with the GHQ military band performing national songs and a medley of folk tunes.
Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee General Sahir Shamshad Mirza, senior serving and retired officers, diplomats as well as government functionaries were in attendance.
Later, in a telephone conversation, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif congratulated the army chief and assured full cooperation of the government in areas related to defence and security.
‘Gen Munir professional, capable officer’
Addressing the ceremony prior to handing over the baton of command to Gen Munir, the outgoing COAS said he was thankful for being given the opportunity to lead the Pakistan Army.
Gen Bajwa congratulated Gen Munir on being appointed his successor and hoped his promotion would be a cause for the progress of the country and the army. He went on to say that his association with Gen Munir goes back 24 years.
“In addition to being a Hafiz-i-Quran, he is a professional, capable and principled officer. I am certain that under his leadership the army will reach new heights of success.”
Gen Bajwa hoped the appointment of Gen Munir as the military chief would prove to be positive for both the country and the army. He said he was handing over the army to an “expert and capable son”.
Reflecting on his military journey, Gen Bajwa said the journey which began several decades ago was now coming to an end.
“I am thankful to God that he gave me the opportunity to work for this great army and gave me the opportunity to lead it,” he said, reiterating that it was a “great honour” for him.
He said that during his six-year tenure, the army had always responded to his call regardless of whether it concerned terrorism in different parts of the country or natural calamities.
“And when I asked them for sweat, they gave me blood.”
Gen Bajwa said that the army’s sacrifices were acknowledged by the country’s friends and foes. “I am proud of my army that despite scarce resources, they defend the country’s boundaries from the ice-capped mountains of Siachen to the deserts of Thar.”
Gen Bajwa also quoted a saying from American military leader Douglas MacArthur, which states: “Old soldiers don’t die, they just fade away.”
“I will also into fade into irrelevance but my spiritual relationship with the army will remain,” he said, ending his speech with prayers for the success of the new army chief and the Pakistan army.
Who is Gen Asim Munir?
Gen Munir is an outstanding officer, but because of the technicalities involved, it was earlier believed he may remain the proverbial dark horse in the race for the army chief’s position.
At the time of his nomination for the post, Gen Munir’s impending retirement date was Nov 27, which posed a technical hitch in his accession to the top slot. To counter this, he was given a promotion to the rank of four-star general with immediate effect after being named the army chief in a deviation from the norm.
Gen Munir was promoted to the rank of a three-star general in September 2018, but he took charge two months later. He entered the service via the Officers Training School programme 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.
Lt Gen Munir was later appointed Military Intelligence director general in early 2017, and in October next year was made the Inter-Services Intelligence chief.
However, his stint as the top intelligence officer turned out to be the shortest ever, as he was replaced by Lt Gen Faiz Hamid within eight months, on the insistence of then-PM Imran Khan.
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.