It has been a few weeks since the new army chief has been appointed and has taken charge of the Pakistan army. In the list of candidates that were up for the appointment of COAS, General Syed Asim Munir was the most senior officer amongst other generals. The appointment of Gen Asim Munir is both a usual and unusual state affair at the same time. General Asim Munir is one of those few army officers that are serving in the Pakistan army who are from OTS (Officers Training School). He is from the 17th OTS 1986 course and was awarded the sword of honor for his excellent performance. This is the first time an officer from OTS has been appointed as the Chief of Army Staff in the history of the Pakistan army. His appointment has been made in a very intense and critical era of Pakistan’s history, where the country is extremely polarized, surviving political turmoil, the economy is at its lowest level and Afghanistan’s security situation is directly affecting the security of Pakistan. The next steps taken by COAS Gen Asim Munir will be critical and strategic in nature in order to overcome these extraordinary challenges the country is facing ahead.
Intelligence and operational services:
One of the unique features of General Asim Munir is that he served both as DG MI and DG ISI which no other chief has served before. Gen Asim was appointed as DG MI in early 2017 and later DG ISI in Oct 2018. This intelligence service of Gen Asim will definitely affect the overall strategy of the Pakistan army in countering security threats in a unique manner and perspective. Previously Gen Asim had commanded troops in the northern areas as a brigadier under Gen Bajwa who was Corps Commander Rawalpindi during that time. In 2019 Gen Asim was appointed as Corps Commander Gujranwala and later as the Quartermaster General at GHQ Rawalpindi.
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Relations with India:
A grave challenge for Gen Asim Munir is dealing with India. During COAS’s visit to the Line of Control (LOC) on 3rd December, Gen Asim warned India of any misadventure. COAS Gen Asim visited the frontline meeting with troops in the Rakhchikri Sector of LOC. Gen Asim was briefed on the operational readiness and preparedness of troops in case of any aggression from the eastern border. COAS also interacted with frontline troops and officers, appreciating their high morale, professional competence, and combat readiness on the frontline.
In the provocative statement of the Indian General about Azad Kashmir, COAS Gen Asim said in a statement that; “We have noticed highly irresponsible statements from Indian leadership on Gilgit-Baltistan and Azad Jammu and Kashmir recently. Let me make it categorically clear, Pakistan’s armed forces are ever ready, not only to defend every inch of our motherland but to take the fight back to the enemy, if ever war is imposed on us” He also said that, “Indian state will never be able to achieve its nefarious designs. The world must ensure justice and deliver what is promised to the Kashmiri people as per [United Nations] resolutions,”
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The security situation on the western border:
After the withdrawal of the US from Afghanistan and the takeover of the Taliban, the overall dynamics of the region have become extremely unpredictable and challenging. Just recently the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan has called off the ceasefire and has claimed multiple terror attacks on Pakistani soil, such as the recent Quetta bomb blast. In addition, the attack on Pakistan’s embassy in Kabul which ISKP has claimed has also put Pakistan on high alert. These are some of the difficult challenges Gen Asim will face as COAS.
As mentioned above, TTP’s terror activities have intensified after the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan and especially after calling for a ceasefire early this month. We are most likely to see more intelligence-based operations and the intensity of Operation Radd-ul-Fasaad will increase. Just yesterday a truck full of M4 A1 and M16 assault rifles with 25 boxes of ammunition was seized from the Torkham border. These weapons were most to be delivered to TTP’s sleeper cells in Pakistan for conducting terror activities. Another intelligence-based operation was conducted in North Waziristan yesterday in which around 2,250 rounds of submachine gun ammo and 12,760 rounds were recovered. In another intelligence-based operation yesterday by security forces, a high-value target named Zahidullah who is a key insurgent belonging to the Hafiz Gul Bahadur faction of the TTP.
There is no doubt that the country’s political situation at this time is full of turbulence. It is hyperpolarized and political movements are on the rise. In Gen Bajwa’s farewell speech, he made it categorically clear that the army will in fact pursue the policy of non-interference in Pakistan’s politics but political parties and political opinion makers leave no opportunity to blame the military establishment even in those areas which are far from the military’s domain. Although we can already see a positive change of perception regarding the military as soon as he took over as COAS. But Gen Asim will have to counter all these negative and false perceptions while adopting a non-political and non-interference policy.
The views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent Global Defense Insight’s editorial policy.
Muhammad Asim Khan has a master’s degree in Mass Communication from the National University of Modern Languages, Islamabad, and often writes on geopolitics, international developments, and strategic affairs with a special focus on Af-Pak affairs, Asia, and the Middle East.