Pakistan: New Army Chief General Munir’s Personality And Political Approaches – Analysis

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Pakistan admittedly is a Garrison State with varying shades of democracy sprouting at the pleasure and inclinations of the Pakistan Army Collegium of Corps Commanders presided over by Pakistan Army Chief. General Asim Munir’s elevation to the role of ‘King Maker’ in November 2022 merits an assessment of his personality traits and his political approaches to Pakistan’s messy political quagmire. 

Need it be reiterated that despite protestations by outgoing Pakistan Army Chief General Bajwa that Pakistan Army has decided not to in intervene in political affairs, the stark reality of Pakistan’s ongoing economic and political meltdown hastened by former PM Imran Khan’s disruptive political strategies will inevitably bring-in Pakistan Army Chief to intervene to stop the rot in the coming year.

Hence, the persona of General Munir as Pakistan Army Chief and the Pakistan Army’s role in ensuring Pakistan’s unity and integrity is likely to come into play in the coming months.

For Pakistan watchers it becomes an imperative to estimate and size-up General Munir’s personality traits and his likely approaches to Pakistan’s political crisis on which solution also rests Pakistan’s economic revival. 

General Munir’s Elevation to Army Chief at a Time of Pakistan’s Economic & Political Meltdown – The Context

Pakistan in end-2022 stares at the spectacle of a complete economic and political meltdown generated by Constitutional ousting of Imran Khan as Prime Minister in early 2022.

Imran Khan thereafter has embarked on politically disruptive strategies aimed at every constitutional organ of the Pakistan State, and particularly the Pakistan Army.

Pakistan Army has been particularly demonised by Imran Khan and his PTI acolytes. It was the Pakistan Army which facilitated Imran Khan’s emergence as Prime Minister of Pakistan in 2018. In 2022 the Pakistan Army did not intervene when Pakistan Supreme Court directed that Imran Khan face the No Confidence Motion in the National Assembly, which he lost.

In my assessment Imran Khan was never a Prime Ministerial material lacking political experience and political maturity. He survived as Prime Minister on Pakistan Army’s sufferance as it then politically suited Pakistan Army’s interests of having a PM who repeatedly asserted that ‘he was on the same page as the Pakistan Army’.

Imran Khan’s megalomaniac impulses as Pakistan’s nationally revered ‘Cricketing Hero’ who won the World Cup for Pakistan decades back soon overtook his political prudence and he ventured to interfere in Pakistan Army’s selection of DG ISIs –Pakistan Army’s most critical appointment as a personal selectee of the Pakistan Army Chief.

Then PM Imran Khan somehow prevailed upon General Bajwa to move out Lt Gen Munir from DG ISI appointment with just eight months in office because Lt Gen Munir had sounded PM Imran Khan that his wife Bushra Bibi and her friends were indulging in corrupt activities. PM Imran Khan took this as a political affront

PM Imran Khan’s second interference in appointment of DG ISI pertained to posting out of Lt Gen Faiz Hameed, reportedly a favourite of PM Imran Khan. PM Imran Khan sat on the file appointing Lt Gen Nadeem Anjum as the new DG ISI as Lt Gen Faiz, a contender for COAS post, had grown too big for his boots over the Taliban takeover of Kabul on US exit.

As is the wont of Pakistan’s Prime Ministers in their third year in office, Imran Khan felt empowered to meddle in Pakistan Amy’s internalised selection processes. This was Imran Khan’s ‘Waterloo’ with Pakistan Army and his falling out with General Bajwa the reigning Pakistan Army Chief. While General Bajwa gave-in on moving out of Lt Gen Munir as DG ISI, the second time General Bajwa stuck his heels-in to insist that PM Imran Khan’s favourite Lt General Faiz Hammed posting out from DG ISI appointment  has to stand.

What followed in 2022 is recent history and needs not to be recounted. 

Suffice it to say that in n-2022 PTI Supremo Imran Khan is on the ‘Wrong Page’ with the Pakistan Army. This then marks the major portent as to the future course of Pakistan Amy and General Munir in the run-up to National Assembly Elections slated for October 2023, much to Imran Khan’s dislike clamouring for early National Elections.

Herein comes Pakistan Army’s new Army Chief General Munir and an estimative assessment f his personality traits and his likely political approaches as Pakistan battles to survive its existential crisis.

General Munir’s Personality & Professional Traits – Estimative Assessment

General Munir has risen from very humble background from Pakistan Army’s GHQ city of Rawalpindi wherein the real political power of Pakistan resides.

Pakistani TV visuals recently did photo coverage of General Munir’s erstwhile Rawalpindi’s locality where General Munir grew up and has eventually risen up to the most powerful position in Pakistan. In this ordinary neighbourhood people recalled with respect General Munir growing up and his father said to be a devout Muslim.

 General Zia as Pakistan’s former military dictator, before General Musharraf, favoured selection of Pakistan Army officers from rural backgrounds or lower middle class urban areas. This class was perceived to be more devout Muslims and were to be the future backbone of the ‘Pakistan Army as Custodian of Pakistan’s Islamic Frontiers’ as one Army Chief, General Kayani asserted years back.

General Munir as per Pakistani media reports is said to be a devout Muslim who during his posting as Pakistani Defence Attaché in Saudi Arabia was honoured with a Distinguished Certificate for his ability to recite by heart the Holy Quran.

This fits in well with Pakistan’s current political dynamics and political mood.

Personality traits of Pakistan Army Chiefs surface retrospectively after their tenures are complete. Till then as many intelligence agencies resort to is estimative assessments of the Pakistan Army Chief going by their facial readings, demeanour from pictures and videos of professional visits to Pakistan Amy frontline positions.

General Munir comes across as a cool, well-composed formal personality. The glint in his eyes projects a personality that is ‘clinically analytical’ and with a no-nonsense approach.  Even before his elevation, General Munir would stand out in Group Photographs of Pakistan Army Generals as a distinct personality—formal, composed and clinical.

In marked comparison to his predecessor General Bajwa who was more affable, friendly and relaxed personality. General Munir can be said to be formal, business-like and to the point.

That fits in well with Pakistan’s current messy political situation hard decisions will be expected from the Pakistan Army Chief in the politically and economic challenging crisis.

 Adding the above personality traits to General Munir’s highly professional Army profile and more notably having held the top intelligence appointments of Pakistan Army as Director of Military Intelligence and DG ISI equips General Munir with deep insights of the dynamics and workings of Pakistani political set-up. General Munir can be expected to have a wealth of intelligence on Pakistan’s political leaders and more notably the ousted PM Imran Khan. Not to say their vulnerabilities

General Munir conveys the image of a highly professional and agile Pakistan Army Chief viewing the visuals carried by the Pakistani media of the new Army Chief’s prompt visits to Pakistan’s eastern frontier posts bordering India. 

General Munir’s Political Approaches to Pakistan’s Existential Crisis: An Estimate

General Munir cannot be expected to be a passive spectator to the unprecedented ongoing economic and political mess in Pakistan arising from ousted PM Imran Khan’s diabolical urges to return as Prime Minister of Pakistan, at any cost, notwithstanding the damage being inflicted on Pakistan’s imperilled future. Imran Khan has blamed and abused the Pakistan Army for his ouster as PM oblivious to the fact that it was Pakistan Supreme Court orders that led to his exit when he shied away from facing the No Confidence Motion in the National Assembly and resorting to inconceivable tricks to remain in power. 

In the above strategies of demonising the Pakistan Army, Imran Khan and  his PTI leaders spread the canards that the Pakistan Army was a ‘divided house’ and especially the Army Hierarchy and also that the e Rank and File was similarly divided. With Imran Khan using the social media to effect outside observers were being led to conclude that Pakistan Army’s image and standing in Pakistan was nationally being lowered.

Contextually, therefore, the new Pakistan Army Chief General Munir’s political approaches can be estimated to adopt a three-pronged strategy: (1) First and foremost to restore the damage to Pakistan Army’s reputation inflicted by PTI Supremo Imran Khan (2) Ensure Pakistan Government in power is not brought down by Imran Khan using his unconstitutional populist ‘Street Power’ or the government rendered so fragile as to induce external donors inclined to hold back on aid for Pakistan’s economic recovery (3) Repair the damage inflicted on US-Pak relations by Imran Khan’s vituperative unsubstantiated accusations of US involvement in regime-change of Imran Khan. Despite an intense military relationship with China, Pakistan Army Generals are pragmatic that Pakistan cannot be on wrong side of the United States.

In all of the above three challenges which ail Pakistan and in the solution of them, what emerges is that Imran Khan figures prominently as ‘Disruptor-in Chief’ of Pakistan’s fragile economic and political fabric, notwithstanding his populists constituency of ‘Street Power’ which feeds his over-bloated political ambitions. 

The Pakistan Army soon after General Munir’s takeover as Army Chief seem to have fired the first warning shots against Imran Khan. Pakistan’s President Alvi, an Imran Khan acolyte, publicly asserted that criticisms of Pakistan Army should cease. Estimatively, this has not arisen from President Alvi’s own volition but that Pakistan President has been nudged by General Munir to politically rein-in his PTI boss.

Imran Khan, true to his ‘shoot and scoot’ tactics changed tack. The question is, but for how long? Imran Khan is embedded with an obsessive fixation that he has to gt even with the Pakistan Army for what he perceives as a betrayal of not standing by him when he was being handed out of office.

Concluding Estimate: Pakistan Military Takeover a Possibility?

Contextually, when Pakistan is facing an existential crisis generated by PTI Supremo Imran Khan’s Quixotic strategies of challenging every Constitutional authority and the Pakistani Establishment buoyed by PTIs ‘Street Power’ can a possibility of a possible military take-over of Pakistan’s governance be ruled out on grounds of national security and economic security?

What today stands in between Imran Khan’s anarchist impulses to regain the Premiership, is the Pakistan Army, which is no longer is interested in sustaining his political impulses. All estimates point to the conclusion that General Munir and the Pakistan Army will not be idle spectators should Imran Khan impatiently resorts to political anarchies of Long Marches and Container blockades to secure his ambitions.

Should Imran Khan return to power in the next National Assembly elections, whenever they are held, even then strong possibilities exist that there would be a clash of interests between Imran Khan as PM and the Pakistan Army. Imran Khan returned to power would be like a wounded tiger wanting to strike back at the Pakistan Army.

General Munir as the new Pakistan Army Chief has his hands full and it can be estimated that General Munir would be firm and clinically decisive in facing the challenges posed to the honour of Pakistan Army and to Pakistan.  

Dr. Subhash Kapila

Dr Subhash Kapila combines a rich and varied professional experience of Indian Army Brigadier ( Veteran), diplomatic assignments in the United States, Japan, South Korea, and Bhutan. Served in India's Cabinet Secretariat also. He is a Graduate of Royal British Army Staff College, Camberley, UK, Msc Defence Studies from Madras University and a Doctorate in Strategic Studies from Allahabad University. Papers have been presented by him in International Seminars in Japan,Turkey, Russia and Vietnam. Credited to him are over 1,500 Papers on geopolitical & strategic topical issues and foreign policies of USA, Japan, India, China and Indo Pacific Asia. He has authored two Books : "India's Defence Policies & Strategic Thought: A Comparative Analysis" and "China-India Military Confrontation: 21st Century Perspectives"

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