Shijal ChudasamaDecember 6, 2022

Pakistan’s new army chief, General Asim Munir faces challenges

Pakistan’s new army chief, General Asim Munir faces challenges

General Asim Munir became command of Pakistan's nuclear-armed military this week, giving him what is perhaps the most powerful position in the nation.

The 57-year-old former espionage head now has a major influence over both domestic and international events in the nation.

Five challenges Pakistan’s new army chief faces
General Asim Munir

Pakistan is currently dealing with several difficulties, including a vocal opposition calling for immediate elections, a financial collapse, and record floods that have inundated a third of the nation this year. Munir has assumed leadership at this time.

According to analysts, Imran Khan's ouster from government has left politics in a state of confusion and instability, which the new army leader must attempt to resolve.

Khan claimed that the United States conspired with his political adversaries and the powerful military to engineer his downfall in a legislative vote of confidence that was lost in April of this year.

 Prime Minister Imran Khan
 Former Prime Minister Imran Khan

Washington and Islamabad have always refuted the accusations.

Last month, the leader of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) party made a U-turn and stated that he no longer held the US responsible for his ouster, highlighting his desire for positive ties with Washington if and when he returns to power.

The cricketer-turned-politician has already asked the army to move up elections that would normally take place in late 2023, despite the fact that Khan continues to vehemently criticize the military for its involvement in politics.

According to political expert Majid Nizami of Lahore, considering what Munir's predecessor Qamar Javed Bajwa declared in his departure speech last month, his time will be attentively observed.

Speaking to the army's top brass, Bajwa declared that the military had made the decision to refrain from interfering in political affairs since such interventions, which he claimed have occurred in the past, would be unconstitutional.

To be unquestionably accepted across the political spectrum, Munir must first establish his reputation as a really neutral army head, according to Nizami.

The military's regular intervention in politics and its dominance over the media, according to Mosharraf Zaidi of the Islamabad-based Tabadlab think group, should stop.

“Under a new chief, the military must resist the urge to use the vast extraconstitutional and illegal influence and power the military has over judiciary, the civilian administration across the country and the news media,” he said.

This takes us to Munir's second-biggest problem: Pakistanis' perceptions of the military.

More than 30 of Pakistan's 75 years as an independent country have seen the army directly rule the country, and whether in power or not, it is seen as the country's top domestic judge.

Increasing the morale of the military's rank and file should be a top goal for Munir, according to retired army general Omar Mahmood Hayat.

It doesn't take long for the image to be fixed with a competent technique, as we have seen in the past, he said.

Five challenges Pakistan’s new army chief faces
Outgoing army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa, right, hands over the baton of command to General Asim Munir during a ceremony at the military headquarters in Rawalpindi, Pakistan

"Perception management," according to former defense secretary and retired army general Asif Yasin Malik, will be difficult for Munir.

"Managing the impression of the army's role in politics is his first challenge. The first item he needs to target and fix is this. This is damaging the operational mindset of the army, he claimed.

"They [soldiers] should be able to see what is going on in the world and what is being said on social media or WhatsApp, but their attention should be on their goal and their professional orientation."

One of Munir's biggest tasks, according to Abdul Syed, a Pakistan and Afghanistan specialist, will be to contain the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) armed group's growing danger.

A truce negotiated with the Pakistani government in June and brokered by Kabul was violated last week by the TTP, which is ideologically associated with the Taliban, the regime in power in Afghanistan.

The TTP gave orders for its members to undertake new operations "in the entire country" in the statement declaring the breakdown of the ceasefire. Three persons, including a police officer, were killed in a suicide bombing two days later while taking part in a polio vaccination program in the city of Quetta in Pakistan's southwest.

The Pakistan Institute for Peace Studies, a research organization with offices in Islamabad, has collated data showing that the TTP has carried out more than 70 armed attacks so far this year, inflicting dozens of fatalities.

Pakistan is urging Kabul to take action against the TTP leadership, which Islamabad claims has sought asylum there. The Taliban, though, insist that their country won't be used to launch operations against other nations.

"It is fairly clear that Afghani Taliban have sought safety there. Syed remarked that Pakistan now has two options for resolving this matter: one is political and the other is military."

"If Pakistan decides to use military force, it will unavoidably deteriorate relations with the Afghan Taliban regime and obstruct its strategic goals. However, Pakistan can try to find a non-military approach to put pressure on the Afghan Taliban to rein in TTP and prevent"

Pakistan's biggest foe historically has been India, which makes both forces involved. Two of the three full-scale conflicts between the two nuclear-armed nations have been fought over Kashmir, a Himalayan area partitioned between the two but fully claimed by both.

Armed assaults on their territory are commonly attributed by both nations to military intelligence of the other.
They were on the verge of another war in the beginning of 2019 after India accused Pakistan of being responsible for a deadly attack in Indian-administrated Kashmir and retaliated with an airstrike across the border.

Later that year, as India's Hindu nationalist government deprive Kashmir of its special status and implements an unprecedented security crackdown in the valley that lasts for months, the relations deteriorate and all diplomatic contacts between them are frozen.

Up until March 2021, frequent battles along their Himalayan border continued before the two nations chose to abide by a 2003 ceasefire deal.

Days after becoming army chief, Munir traveled to Kashmir, which is governed by Pakistan, and vowed to "protect every inch of our motherland."

He declared, "The Indian state would never be able to carry out her evil plans.

Maintaining solid ties with China and the US, two global adversaries, would be one of Munir's biggest problems, according to numerous analysts who note that Pakistan has long maintained tight ties with both countries.

However, during the past few years, Pakistan has become more dependent on its northeastern neighbor as a result of China's massive investment in projects all throughout Pakistan.

Islamabad's relations with Washington, meantime, have been tense, and Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif is now trying to repair the damage done by Khan's administration.

In the latter months of his leadership, the former army chief Bajwa traveled to China and the US.

"They [China] have never told us who we should and shouldn't be friends with. But that seems to be a problem for the Americans and other Western nations," former defense secretary Malik said.

Foreign policy expert Mohammed Faisal, who is based in Islamabad, believes that Munir needs to find a way to balance the "competing influences" coming from Beijing and Washington.

Pakistan needs to find a method to win the necessary backing from both of the main lenders since it needs both military and economic assistance from both nations, he added.

The military should, however, "completely back the government's foreign policy engagements and resist the impulse to lead or manage the foreign policy themselves," according to Tabadlab's Zaidi.

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