Rana Banerji, one of India’s experts on the Pakistan army, says Asim Munir is likely to be more hardline in his attitude to India than the outgoing Pakistan Army Chief General Qamar Bajwa but adds that the 2003 ceasefire along the LoC, which was reinforced in early 2021, will be strictly enforced.
Banerji, who is also a former special secretary R&AW, says General Munir will abide by the stand taken by General Bajwa and repeated by the latter on Wednesday, November 23, that “the Army (has) decided not to interfere in any political matter … I assure you we are adamant on this and will remain so.”
In a 40-minute interview with Karan Thapar for The Wire, Banerji paints a picture of General Munir – from his background as the son of a small teacher in a town near Rawalpindi through to his training at the Officers Training School, to his qualification as a Hafiz-e-Quran, his time as defence attache in Saudi Arabia and the important jobs he has held in the Army such as Quartermaster General, General Officer Commanding Force Command Northern Areas and Corps Commander Gujranwala.
Banerji, the author of The Pakistan Army: Composition, Character and Compulsions, also discusses the two controversies surrounding General Munir’s appointment. First, the fact he retires on November 27 and General Bajwa, the present chief, only retires on November 29. Second, the role General Munir played during his brief stint as DG ISI, exposing allegations of corruption surrounding Imran Khan’s wife Bushra Sheikh.
Banerji explains why Nawaz Sharif is said to be close to General Munir. He also discusses how General Munir is likely to respond to Imran Khan’s long march, which is due to culminate in a major rally in Rawalpindi/Islamabad on November 26. He also answers the question of how the new Army chief will respond if the Sharif government calls on the army to control the situation in the event there’s violence at Imran Khan’s Islamabad rally.
In part two of the interview, Banerji speaks about recent revelations on Ahmad Noorani’s website, Fact Focus, alleging that in the last six years (when General Bajwa was Army chief), the Bajwa family has accumulated assets “more than Rs. 12.7 billion”. Ahmad Noorani has published multiple tax returns filed by General Bajwa, his wife and his daughter-in-law. Shortly after these revelations were made public, Noorani’s website was blocked and the finance minister ordered an immediate inquiry into the leak of the Bajwa family tax returns.