ISLAMABAD: Pakistan's Defense Minister Khawaja Asif on Thursday appreciated President Arif Alvi's "political wisdom" in the appointment of Lieutenant General Asim Munir as the new chief of army staff, which has put to rest weeks of speculation in the South Asian country.
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.
The key appointment had been a subject of widespread speculation in Pakistan, but the president’s decision to sign off on the summary sent by the Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif’s office on Thursday put to rest the uncertainty that has caused months of political instability in Pakistan.
Asif praised President Alvi, a key ally of Sharif's main political rival and ex-premier Imran Khan, for making a wise decision.
"Whatever the president has done today, he has proven [his] political wisdom," the minister told Pakistan's Geo news channel Thursday night.
"I am supposed to appreciate him for working in his capacity as the president or the supreme commander [of the armed forces]," he said, when questioned about his previous stance on Alvi.
As the government announced the new chief, some experts on Thursday expressed concerns that Alvi might not immediately ratify the appointment 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.
Asif expressed his hope for the country to now head towards economic recovery in the coming months.
Pakistan's economy has gone into a tailspin since the April ouster of Khan from power in a parliamentary no-trust vote.
The foreign exchange reserves held by the country have been declining, with a widening current account deficit and the national currency on the decline.
Many believe Munir's appointment would help reduce political instability, which in turn would stabilize the dwindling South Asian economy.
Munir, currently serving as quartermaster general in the army, will likely take charge of the world’s sixth-largest army in a formal handover on Tuesday, when the outgoing army chief, General Qamar Javed Bajwa, formally retires.