General Asim Munir becomes new army chief as President Alvi approves top military appointments

A senior general of Pakistan army Lt. Gen. Syed Asim Munir attends a ceremony in Islamabad, Pakistan, on November 1, 2022. (AP/File)
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Updated 24 November 2022

General Asim Munir becomes new army chief as President Alvi approves top military appointments

  • Lt Gen Sahir Shamshad Mirza appointed chairman of the joint chiefs of staff committee
  • Outgoing General Qamar Javed Bajwa became army chief in 2016, will retire on Nov. 29

ISLAMABAD: President Arif Alvi endorsed the appointment of Pakistan’s new army chief on Thursday after Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif picked Lt. Gen. Asim Munir to replace outgoing General Qamar Javed Bajwa as top commander of the country’s all-powerful army.
The president’s decision to sign off on the summary sent by the Prime Minister’s Office earlier on Thursday put to rest speculation and uncertainty surrounding the high-profile appointment that has caused months of political instability in Pakistan.
The army chief is arguably the most influential person in Pakistan, with the military having ruled the country for about half of its 75-year history since independence from Britain and enjoying extensive powers even under civilian administrations.
Munir, currently serving as quartermaster general in the Pakistan army, will likely take charge of the world’s sixth-largest army by troop numbers in a formal handover on Tuesday, when Bajwa formally retires.
Lt. Gen. Sahir Shamshad Mirza has been appointed chairman of the joint chiefs of staff committee.
“The president has immediately promoted Lt. Gen. Syed Asim Munir to the rank of General and appointed him as Chief of Army Staff,” the Presidency said in an official statement, adding the new army chief’s appointment would come into effect from November 29.

The statement said Mirza’s appointment had also been approved by the president and would come into force from November 27.
Speaking to journalists in Islamabad, defense minister Khawaja Muhammad Asif said it was “a good omen that a phase which had created anxiety in the country for the last six months has settled down amicably.”
He added it was time “all people, especially politicians, brought their behavior within the ambit and boundaries of the constitution.”
Earlier in the day, information minister Marriyum Aurangzeb announced in a Twitter post the prime minister had decided to “appoint Lt. Gen. Sahir Shamshad Mirza as the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Lt. Gen. Syed Asim Munir as the Chief of the Army Staff using his constitutional authority.”
“A summary of this has been sent to the President of Pakistan,” she added.
According to Article 48 of the Pakistani constitution, the president is bound to follow the advice of the prime minister. However, the president also has the right to return the summary to the premier for reconsideration within 15 days of its issuance.
As the government announced the new chief, some experts expressed concerns Alvi might not immediately ratify the summary and try to drag the process. The fears were raised in the backdrop of ex-prime minister Imran Khan, a chief rival of Sharif, saying in an interview on Wednesday the president, a close aide and member of Khan’s PTI party, was in contact with him and would consult him on the appointment of the top slots in the military.
“It will also be a test for President Alvi whether he will follow political advice or constitutional and legal advice,” Asif had said in the afternoon. “As the supreme commander of the armed forces, it is his duty to protect the country from political conflicts.”
Munir was the senior most general on the list of nominations sent to the prime minister by the military for consideration for the army chief’s slot. He is from the 17th course of the Officers Training School in Mangla and was commissioned in the 23rd Battalion of the Frontier Force Regiment.
He was promoted to the rank of Lt. Gen. in September 2018 and was subsequently appointed as the head of Pakistan’s all-powerful ISI spy agency.


Pakistan central bank to set up special wing to ensure Shariah-compliant banking — finance minister

Updated 01 December 2022

Pakistan central bank to set up special wing to ensure Shariah-compliant banking — finance minister

  • Federal Shariat Court gave a five-year deadline to the government to Islamize the country’s financial system
  • Religious scholars call for practical steps to transform Pakistan’s banking system under the court’s verdict

KARACHI: Pakistan’s finance minister Ishaq Dar said on Wednesday a dedicated wing would soon be established at the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) to ensure the country’s transformation into an interest-free economy to comply with a ruling of the Federal Shariat Court (FSC) earlier this year.

The FSC directed the government in April to eliminate riba, or interest, within five years while pointing out its prohibition was absolute in all forms and manifestations in Islam.

The finance minister said his government was committed to transforming Pakistan’s banking system by December 2027, adding it would up the special wing at the SBP to expedite the process.

“A wing would be formed at the SBP and I will notify the formation of wing within a week,” Dar said while addressing at a seminar on the prohibition of riba in Karachi.

“We can’t establish a ministry [to oversee the economic transformation] which is also not needed,” he continued while emphasizing that the role of the central bank was “pivotal” in Islamizing the banking system of the country.

Referring to the deadline set by the court, the finance minister said the conversion of the banking system was doable within five years.

“This is not the work that can’t be done in five years,” he said while asking the Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP) along with the central bank to diligently work on the project.

“A base has already been established as the share of Islamic banking in terms of the overall assets and deposits has surged by 20 percent and 21 percent, respectively, of the overall banking sector,” he added.

The finance minister noted that significant progress had been made in relation to the Islamization of Pakistan’s banking system during his government’s previous tenure, adding that things came to a halt due to political instability in the country.

“Today the financial share of the Islamic banks would have been 40 percent instead of 20 percent,” he said.

Earlier, the SBP governor, Jameel Ahmad, noted the demand for Islamic banking services was far greater than the conventional ones. He added the central bank was therefore taking more “measures to meet the growing demand.”

“We have already commenced work on a transformation plan to shift to Islamic banking,” Ahmed said.

He informed a high-level working group of officials from the SBP, SECP and finance ministry had been formed and activated which was responsible for developing Sukuk structures.

Ahmed said that Pakistan currently had five full-fledged Islamic banks offering a wide range of products and their annual growth rate over the last five years in terms of their assets and deposits had been 25 percent and 22 percent, respectively.

This, he noted, was far higher than most conventional banks.

Speaking at the seminar, Mufti Taqi Usmani, a prominent Islamic scholar, appreciated the government’s decision to withdraw appeals against the FSC decision which had earlier been filed in the Supreme Court.

Usmani asked the finance ministry to take practical steps to move toward an interest-free system in the country while pointing out that some private banks had yet not withdrawn their petitions against the FSC ruling.

Political and religious leaders, including Maulana Fazlur Rehman, chief of Jamiat-e-Ulema-e-Islam, and Siraj-ul-Haq, emir of Jamaat-e-Islami party, also participated in the seminar.


Pakistan PM meets new army chief, lauds military's professional abilities

Updated 30 November 2022

Pakistan PM meets new army chief, lauds military's professional abilities

  • Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif tells General Asim Munir it is a huge honor to lead the Pakistan Army
  • The PM hopes the armed forces will protect the country’s security better under its new leadership

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif praised the military’s professional abilities while holding a meeting with the new army chief Syed Asim Munir on Wednesday, saying it was a huge honor for anyone to lead the armed forces of Pakistan which were tirelessly working for the country’s security.

This was Munir’s first meeting with the prime minister after taking over the army’s command in a ceremony held at the General Headquarters in Rawalpindi on Tuesday. He replaced General Qamar Javed Bajwa who retired from the post after leading the army for six years.

“We have full confidence in the professional capabilities of the Pakistan Army,” the prime minister was quoted as saying in a statement released by his office after the meeting.

“It is a great honor to lead the Pakistan Army,” he said while addressing the top general. “It is hoped that the armed forces under your leadership will deal with the challenges facing the country’s security in a better way.”

Sharif congratulated Munir on taking charge of his new position.

He maintained the whole nation was proud of the army’s role in protecting the frontiers of the country and fighting violent extremism and militancy.

The army has ruled Pakistan for almost half of its 75-year history, either through coups or as an invisible guiding hand in politics.

Munir’s appointment coincides with a dispute between the army and former premier Imran Khan, who blames top military generals for playing a part in his ouster in a parliamentary no-trust vote earlier this year.

Khan also expressed hope earlier in the day the new military leadership would end the “prevailing trust deficit” between the army and the public.

The PM Office said in its statement Sharif’s meeting with the army chief focused on professional issues related to the country’s defense and security.

Munir also met President Arif Alvi during the day.

In a separate meeting, Alvi discussed defense related matters with the new Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee General Sahir Shamshad Mirza.

Pakistan President Dr Arif Alvi (right) meets army chief Syed Asim Munir in Islamabad, Pakistan, on November 30, 2022. (PID)

 


Gas blast at Pakistan coal mine kills nine workers, injures four

Updated 30 November 2022

Gas blast at Pakistan coal mine kills nine workers, injures four

  • Coal deposits are found in the northwestern Orakzai district that sits on the Afghan border
  • Mine workers say lack of safety gear, poor working conditions are key causes of accidents

PESHAWAR: A gas blast at a coal mine killed nine workers in a northwestern Pakistani district on Wednesday, a government official said, and a team investigating the incident said gas sparks had caused the explosion.

There were 13 workers in the mine at the time and nine bodies were recovered, said Adnan Farid, the area deputy commissioner.

The remaining four miners were rescued from the rubble and have suffered critical injuries, he said.

A government team from the mineral development department inspected the site of the incident and said the explosion took place "due to gas sparks inside the mine," Orakzai district police chief Nazeer Khan told Reuters.

A government report seen by Reuters said the blast caused the collapse of the mine, and that gas build-up had triggered the blast. It didn't specify what type of gas it was.

Coal deposits are found in the northwestern Orakzai district that sits on the Afghan border and mine accidents are common, mainly due to gas build-ups.

Mine workers have complained that a lack of safety gear and poor working conditions are the key causes of frequent accidents, labor union officials have said in the past.


At exhibition celebrating UAE National Day, envoy says Pakistan ties ‘unique in region’

Updated 30 November 2022

At exhibition celebrating UAE National Day, envoy says Pakistan ties ‘unique in region’

  • The photo exhibition highlighted 51 years of friendship between the UAE and Pakistan
  • Al-Zaabi expressed optimism about the trajectory of relations between the two countries

ISLAMABAD: The United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Pakistan are destined to take their relations to new heights, said the envoy of the Arab country, Hamad Obaid Al-Zaabi, while visiting a photo exhibition in Islamabad on Wednesday.

The exhibition that highlighted 51 years of friendship between the two states is part of a string of events organized to celebrate the UAE national day that falls on December 2.

Students of Sheikh Zayed International Academy, Islamabad, sang the national anthem of the Arab country and performed traditional dance to celebrate the occasion.

“We are always optimistic about the future of bilateral relations with Pakistan and see this relation jump to a different level,” Al-Zaabi said while addressing the ceremony.

UAE Ambassador to Pakistan Hamad Obaid Al-Zaabi (3rd from left) inaugurates a photo exhibition in connection with the 51st UAE national day in Islamabad, Pakistan, on November 30, 2022. (AN Photo)

He maintained the UAE national day was always a major occasion that meant a great deal to the citizens of his country. He also expressed his gratitude to all the students for participating in the program and making it memorable through their performance.

Al-Zaabi said Pakistan and the UAE enjoyed a strong and historic relationship which was spread over 51 years of shared cooperation.

“We always look at this relation as unique in the region,” he continued. “There are feelings of trust between the people and leaders of the two brotherly countries.”
The UAE envoy said his country looked to future generations through educational cooperation.

“Under Sheikh Zayed International Academy, students from different nationalities and cultures have come here to celebrate the UAE national day with our culture which is really important for all of us,” he added.

Students of Sheikh Zayed International Academy are performing to celebrate the 51st UAE national day in Islamabad, Pakistan, on November 30, 2022. (AN Photo)

Speaking on the occasion, former president of the Islamabad Chamber of Commerce and Industries Sardar Yasir Ilyas said Pakistan could learn a great deal from the UAE, including how to strengthen its tourism industry.

“Tourism has made the UAE a hub of international attention and Pakistan should learn from [UAE’s] experience to tap its vast potential in this field,” he added.


Pakistan Navy seizes thousands of kilograms of drugs in Arabian Sea

Updated 30 November 2022

Pakistan Navy seizes thousands of kilograms of drugs in Arabian Sea

  • Pakistan is part of a transit route in the lucrative drug smuggling trade
  • Navy says its ships located and effectively intercepted two ‘suspicious’ dhows

KARACHI: In an operation in the North Arabian Sea, two Pakistan Navy ships seized approximately 5,800 kilograms of drugs valued at approximately Rs8.6 billion, a spokesperson for the navy said on Wednesday.

Pakistan, like India, is part of a transit route in the lucrative drug smuggling trade, due to its proximity to Afghanistan, the world’s largest producer of opium, from which heroin is made.

“Successful counter narcotics operation was conducted by two Pakistan Navy Ships in Arabian Sea in which a large cache of drugs has been apprehended,” the navy said in a statement.

“While conducting Maritime Security Operations in North Arabian Sea, Naval Ships located and effectively intercepted two suspicious dhows. Upon scrutiny of these boats, a large quantity of drugs that valued approximately Rs. 8.6 billion in international market was seized.”

The navy said both dhows have been handed over to law enforcement agencies. It did not specify what types of drugs were seized or how many people were arrested on board the two dhows.

“The successful operation by Pakistan Navy to seize huge quantity of narcotics reaffirms the resolve and commitment of PN to fulfill national and international obligations for maintaining good order at sea,” the statement said. “Pakistan Navy is vigilant to counter any illegal activity and safeguard its maritime borders.”

In October this year, Indian authorities arrested six Pakistani nationals and seized heroin worth tens of millions of dollars from a Pakistani fishing boat in the Arabian Sea near the western state of Gujarat.