Pakistan PM picks former spy chief to head army

Syed Asim Munir named to take over when Qamar Javed Bajwa retires next week

Pakistan's army chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa will retire after serving a six-year term. AP Photo

Pakistan Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif has named a former head of the national intelligence service to be the next army chief.

Information Minister Maryam Aurangzeb announced Mr Sharif’s decision to appoint Lt Gen Syed Asim Munir to the post shortly after a cabinet meeting on Thursday.

Lt Gen Munir, currently serving as the army's quartermaster general, will replace Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa, who will retire next week after six years as head of the army.

Mr Sharif also decided to appoint Lt Gen Sahir Shamshad Mirza as the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee, the information minister said.

The appointments must be approved by the president, Arif Alvi.

The top military posts carry great significance in Pakistan, where the armed forces wield enormous political influence and have ruled the country for half of its 75-year history.

Former prime minister Imran Khan has accused the military of being part of what he alleges was a US-backed conspiracy to remove him from office in a no-confidence vote earlier this year.

On Wednesday, Gen Bajwa rejected Mr Khan’s claims as "fake and false" while saying the military would have no role in national politics in the future.

Defence Minister Khawaja Asif said the appointment of Gen Bajwa's successor was “based on merit, law and as per the constitution".

Lt Gen Munir is the most senior ranking general after Gen Bajwa and served as chief of Pakistan's two most influential intelligence agencies, the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and the Military Intelligence.

He was removed as head of the ISI in 2019 at the request of Mr Khan, who took office the previous year. No reason was given for the decision.

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Updated: November 24, 2022, 8:40 AM