Pakistan’s new military chief warns of new threats from major extremist groups behind several deadly attacks over the past 15 years as political rifts between the government and popular opposition leaders deepen. Inside, he took command of the country’s armed forces on Tuesday. The military has had a great deal of influence in Pakistan in the past, ruling half of the country’s 75-year history. But since 2001, when Pakistan became an ally of the United States in the war on terrorism, Pakistan has fought local and foreign extremists. It joined the Taliban in Afghanistan in a long-running war that ended in 2021 with the withdrawal of US and NATO forces. The country’s new secretary of war, Gen. Asim Munir is the answer to the latest threat from Pakistan’s Taliban (known as the TTP). The Pakistani Taliban are a separate group, but they are allies of the Afghan Taliban, who seized power in Afghanistan more than a year ago when US and NATO forces were in the final stages of withdrawal. Leaders and fighters encouraged the TTP to hide in Afghanistan.
Former spymaster Mounir will succeed General Kamal Javed Bajwa, who resigned after six years in office. During his tenure, Bajwa approved a series of operations to drive militants out of the country’s former northwestern tribal areas, which borders Afghanistan. Pakistan’s Taliban agreed to an indefinite ceasefire in May after meeting with the Pakistani government and military in the Afghan capital Kabul. The TTP ended the ceasefire in a statement on Monday and announced new attacks. This has sparked fears of violence in Pakistan and has seen numerous deadly attacks, mostly claimed by the TTP, an umbrella organization of several armed factions. He was behind the attack on a military-run school in a western city that killed 147 people. On Tuesday, the country’s undersecretary of foreign affairs, Hina Rabbani Khan, visited Kabul on a scheduled visit. She was expected to raise a range of issues in talks with government officials, including recent threats by Pakistan’s Taliban.
Mounir replaced Bajwa, who retired at the height of his unpopularity, last week when he was promoted to a four-star general by Sharif. Bajwa became one of the most controversial army chiefs this year after opposition leader Imran Khan accused him of overthrowing the government as part of a US conspiracy. Bajwa congratulated Mounir in his speech and hoped that the country’s defense would be further strengthened during his tenure. Bajwa served in the military for 44 years. Khan, a former cricket star-turned-politician, was ousted in a no-confidence vote in parliament and wants a new military leader to end the political turmoil. The army chief is widely regarded as the de facto ruler of Pakistan. Mounir has taken command of the army amid the deadlock between Khan and Sharif and says the next elections will take place as scheduled in 2023. The military has so far professed not to get involved in politics, and it is up to the Sharif government and Khan to resolve political issues.