Outgoing army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa on Monday bid farewell to President Dr Arif Alvi and Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, as the stage is all-set for Gen Syed Asim Munir to take charge as the new chief of army staff (COAS) in the change of command ceremony slated to be held on Tuesday (today).
The transition of the military leadership and the passing of the baton will take place at the General Headquarters (GHQ) as the six-year-long tenure of the military chief ends.
After Shehbaz made a decision, for a few hours, there were speculations that the president, who belongs to the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), might cause hindrance for the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) led ruling alliance in the appointment of the new army chief. However, he signed the summary sent by the premier on November 24.
Gen Asim is Pakistan’s 17th army chief since independence on August 14, 1947. The country has reportedly seen about 30 prime ministers during the same period. The newly appointed military chief has served at the country’s two most influential intelligence agencies, the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and the Military Intelligence (MI).
He was prematurely removed as chief of the ISI at the request of the then prime minister Imran Khan. No reason was given for his removal. He was serving as the army’s quartermaster general. He is the most senior ranking general after outgoing army chief Gen Qamar.
Meanwhile, Gen Qamar held separate farewell meetings with President Alvi and PM Shehbaz, who expressed their good wishes to him during their meetings. Later, PM Shehbaz held a luncheon in honour of Gen Qamar at the Prime Minister House.
Though PM Shehbaz has lauded Gen Qamar’s services, his elder brother and three-time premier Nawaz Sharif had previously accused Qamar of toppling his government, pressuring the judiciary, and installing the government of ex-PM Imran in the 2018 elections.
Nawaz, while speaking via video-link from London to a gathering organised by the then united opposition at Gujranwala, had said that Qamar had “packed up our government, which was working well, and put the nation and the country at the altar” of his wishes. Nawaz had blamed the generals and the judges for what he said were trumped-up charges.
Pakistan’s military had denied meddling in politics back then. However, Gen Qamar recently admitted that there was a lot of criticism of the military mainly because of the intervention of the army in politics for 70 years. He had said that the military had started “its catharsis” and would remain apolitical in the future.
While admitting the military’s involvement in politics, Gen Qamar also admitted that such interference fell outside the ambit of the military’s responsibilities and called it not just a major mistake of the army but an unconstitutional act as well.
However, the meeting between PM Shehbaz and Gen Qamar at the PM House on Monday appeared to be oblivion of the military’s role in politics as well as the accusations hurled in past and confined to only farewell greetings and counted positive contributions as the official statement said that the PM lauded outgoing chief, saying that he led the army at a critical time.
The prime minister also appreciated the services of Gen Qamar for Pakistan Army, national defence and national interests.
While bidding farewell, PM Shehbaz noted that the army, under the leadership of Gen Qamar, rendered exemplary services in various crises, including the removal of Pakistan’s name from the Financial Action Task Force’s (FATF) grey list, the outbreak of Covid-19 pandemic and the climate-induced floods that inundated almost half of the country.
He said that the armed forces crushed the menace of terrorism with valour and bravery under Gen Qamar’s leadership. He added that Gen Qamar took charge as the army chief during one of history’s toughest moments.
“Gen Qamar also played a key role in making Pakistan’s defence impregnable,” PM Shehbaz said, adding that Qamar’s leadership role set the direction for dealing with security challenges in a complex regional situation.
He also lauded the army chief’s services in terms of the role he played in line with the “geo-economics”.
In the meeting with the army chief, PM Shehbaz noted: “All political forces must show collective wisdom and sign a charter of economy to make Pakistan an economic power.”
As PM said to Gen Qamar that he had the honour of leading the world’s best army, the outgoing COAS thanked the PM in response for extending full cooperation in the execution of national affairs.