Seniority prevails: President Alvi nods PM Shehbaz’s nominees for COAS, CJCSC

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ISLAMABAD: Uncertainty surrounding key appointments in the military ended after President Arif Alvi on Thursday signed the summary and approved the appointment of Lieutenant General Asim Munir as the next chief of army staff (COAS) and Lt Gen Sahir Shamshad Mirza as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee (CJCSC).

Earlier today, the government announced that Lt Gen Asim Munir had been chosen by Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif to become Pakistan’s next army chief, replacing General Qamar Javed Bajwa — ending the ongoing speculations.

Information Minister Marriyum Aurangzeb confirmed on Twitter that Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, using his Constitutional right, had also named Lt Gen Sahir Shamshad Mirza as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee (CJCSC).

The President Secretariat received the summary of the appointment — of the officers, who are among the senior-most military officers at the moment.

The decision was announced after Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif held a federal cabinet meeting earlier today to mull over the high-profile appointments after the allied parties authorised him to pick the officers for the top slots.

Premier Shehbaz’s nominee for the army chief has also been retained by the federal government under the Pakistan Army Act, according to sources, as he was about to retire later this month.

Lt Gen Munir, who was also Pakistan’s chief spy, will take over from outgoing COAS General Qamar Javed Bajwa, who retires later this month after a six-year term.

COAS Gen Bajwa, who was appointed as the army chief in 2016, will retire on November 29. He was initially set to hang up his boots in 2019, but the PTI-led government gave him a three-year extension.

Speaking to the media after the meeting of the federal cabinet, Defence Minister Khawaja Asif also confirmed that the summary had been sent to the president.

“All the matters have been settled in line with the Constitution of Pakistan and hopefully the president will not create a controversy,” Asif said. The minister expected President Alvi to approve the premier’s advice as per Consitution and law.

He expressed hope that the said appointments would not be entertained on political advice.

The minister refused to comment on PTI Chairman Imran Khan’s consultation with President Alvi over the matter. He said that he has tweeted on the matter.

He said that the Pakistan Air Force, navy, and army shouldn’t be made controversial. A detailed press release regarding the development will be issued, Asif added.

Before the media talk, Asif had said in his tweet, saying that it was now a test for Imran Khan where he could either strengthen the institution responsible for defending the country or make it controversial.

“This is also a test for President Alvi, whether he will follow political advice or constitutional and legal advice. As the Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, he must protect the country from political conflicts,” Asif stressed in his tweet.

Meanwhile, in response to the speculations that President Alvi might not ratify the summary from the prime minister, Federal Minister for Finance Ishaq Dar said that the government has a “Plan B”.

“The decision to appoint officers on both posts based on merit is applaudable. May God bless the ones who will take up new responsibilities,” he said in a statement.

He added that the appointments to the two top posts would be finalised by November 28. “If the president creates hurdles, then we have a Plan B.”

He said that both appointments could be done on different days as it wasn’t binding to make them both on the same day.

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