By: Meghali Deb, GSDN Network
On November 29, 2002, Tuesday, General Syed Asim Munir replaced General Qamar Javed Bajwa as Pakistan’s New Army Chief officially known as the Chief of the Army Staff (COAS). The former Inter-Service Intelligence Head (ISI) assumed the baton of command as the 17th COAS in a splendid ceremony at the General Headquarters (GHQ).
His appointment as the head of the historically controversial Pakistan Army has triggered diverse reactions within domestic and South Asian politics. Endowed with an impressive portfolio, the four-star ranking former Quartermaster General was awarded Hilal-i-Imtiaz in March 2018. In the wake of allegations that suggest military involvement in ousting Imran Khan from power, the political atmosphere in Pakistan experienced a surge in power skirmishes. Imran Khan’s Long March concurring with the appointment of General Syed Asim fueled fiery contestations among the domestic political factions in the country.
Tracing the roots of controversies, General Asim Munir’s tenure as the ISI Chief was curtailed as the shortest-ever term under the influence of former Prime Minister Imran Khan in 2019. Owing to his former allegiance to ISI, India is speculating Munir’s approach towards India-Pakistan relations as a hard-core militant, contrary to his predecessors. Among a myriad of glaring domestic, South-Asian and International challenges, Munir’s newly appointed role has induced apprehensions about Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan’s recent hostilities against the country.
The recent trends reveal a fortified TTP’s propensity for violence since the Taliban took control over Afghanistan in August 2021. On November 30, 2022, TTP violated the ceasefire which was signed in June with the Government of Pakistan by launching a suicide bombing in the Balelli region in Quetta. Calling off the peace deal led to unprecedented horror with 4 people losing their lives and about 30 people getting wounded.
The statement issued by TTP suggests that the attack was intended to avenge the execution of the former spokesperson of TTP, Abdul Wali. Considering the coincidence of the attack with the appointment of a new COAS, General Asim Munir is entrusted to mitigate the mutilations, ensuing from the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan. On 1st December, the United States of America reverberated by declaring Qari Amzad, the Deputy Chief of TTP, along with three prominent members of Al-Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS), on the ‘Specially Designated Global Terrorists’ list.
Secretary of State Antony Blinked proclaimed that the US is obligated to employ all the relevant tools of counter-terrorism to prohibit Afghanistan as the breeding platform for International Terrorism. Apart from Afghanistan’s role in sheltering AIQS and TTP terrorists since the 2021 Taliban takeover, a stern injunction from the US is also anticipated due to the ‘anti-western’ reputation of COAS General Syed Munir. Honored with the title, Hafiz-e-Quran, Syed Munir’s inclination toward Saudi Arabia experiences strict scrutiny from experts all over the world. The allegations of US involvement with the Pakistan Army in ousting Imran Khan’s government in April 2022, are pricking the sovereignty of Pakistan. On account of such political conjecture, it will be interesting to find out how General Munir navigates the West in favor of Pakistan’s national interests and stability.
Pakistan’s relationship with China is also a dimension that poses immense significance in deciding the international state of affairs. General Syed Munir’s foremost concerns in paving Pakistan’s strategic relations with China include the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor and the Uyghur Muslim Movement of East Turkistan. The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor refers to an eminent multi-dollar agreement between the two countries as part of the Belt and Road Initiative. The CPEC is destined towards the dual objective of elevating Pakistan’s economy and connecting the Pakistani ports of Karachi and Gwadar to Xinjiang province of China. Since the CPEC passes through Gilgit-Baltistan (Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir territory), a claim which is denied by Pakistan, India anticipates serious security implications.
The recent geo-political developments have intensified the strategic atmosphere between the countries of China-Pakistan-India. Despite the political diplomacy between China and Pakistan governments, the security and military pertinence of CPEC hugely lies under the authority of COAS Gen Munir. Pakistan is allegedly helping China in castigating Uyghur Muslims who are hiding in the country to escape persecution by the Chinese government. CPEC plays a pivotal role in Pakistan’s measures against the Uyghur refugees, owing to what came to be known as ‘debt-trap diplomacy’ between China and Pakistan. International Forum for Rights and Security (IFFRAS) reports one such glaring incident of 5 innocent Uyghur Muslim students being extradited to China, based on the suspicion of terrorism in 2010. Since Pakistan Security forces have been actively involved in the brutal deportation of Uyghur Muslims in the country, General Munir’s role expands on the broader contexts of the International system. The following circumstances imply that the newly attained tenure of the Pakistan Army COAS is indeed brimming with geo-political challenges.