Pakistan: Why Lt Gen Munir as army chief is bad news for Imran Khan – Times of India


NEW DELHI: Pakistan Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif chose to “play it safe,” in picking Lt Gen Asim Munir as the next chief of Pakistan army.
At a time when he is facing political headwinds at home, Lt Gen Munir was Sharif’s best bet among the six names that were in the reckoning to succeed Gen QJ Bajwa, who retires next week.
And that is definitely not good news for Imran Khan- out of power, and desperate to make a comeback.
Imran loses first round
Imran played all his cards to thwart Sharif appointing the successor to Gen Bajwa. He knows it well that much of his political fortunes in the days ahead hinge on who is the new boss in Rawalpindi.
Ever since his ouster in a trust vote in parliament in April, Imran had been pressing the government to call snap elections.
The plan was easy to see- to put off the appointment of the next army chief till a new government assumes power in Islamabad. A favourable verdict would have meant Khan getting a chance to pick his man.
With the Sharif government naming Lt Gen Munir as the next COAS, Imran’s gambit has failed.
A history of bad blood
Asif Munir is possibly the last from the “list of six” that Imran Khan wanted to see as the next army boss.
Khan had cut short Munir’s stint as DG-ISI in 2019, barely eight months after he was appointed to the post, replacing him with a “confidante” Faiz Hamid.
Munir is considered close to outgoing army chief Gen Bajwa, since serving under him in the military earlier on.
That too will not make Khan comfortable- of late he had been at loggerheads with Bajwa, accusing him of not doing enough to save his government during the April trust vote. Khan has even named a few military personnel of “hatching a plot” to assassinate him.
What now for Khan?
With his chips down, it seems Imran will have to wait for the next elections, due in the later half of 2023, to attempt a comeback.
And that is where the Munir factor matters most.
Little is known about Munir’s political affiliation, but analysts were sceptical that the army would be able to honour a pledge by outgoing chief Bajwa to keep the military out of national politics.
But Imran Khan can take heart from the growing unpopularity of the Sharif government, thanks to a crippling economy, rising inflation and surging prices. His party PTI has had a good showing in several byelections across provinces since Khan’s ouster in April. His recent rallies too have seen a good response.
Regardless of the election outcome, the going might not be easy for Imran, with Lt Gen Munir as army chief for the next three years.





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