Islamabad: With former ISI chief General Asim Munir's appointment as the next Chief of Army Staff of the Pakistan Army, the media in this coup-prone country on Friday hoped that the powerful military would remain "apolitical" and honour the promise made by his predecessor.
Pakistan on Thursday named former spy chief Munir as chief of the Army, ending weeks of speculation over an appointment that comes amid intense debate around the military's influence on public life.
Munir, the country’s most senior general and a former head of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency, will take over from Army Chief Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa, who will retire on November 29 after six years in what is normally a three-year post.
The Dawn newspaper under the title 'Hardest Reset' wrote that General Munir has taken over at an unenviable time when deep polarisation has fractured the polity and years of economic mismanagement may create temptations to intervene — to "go beyond the mandate", as the outgoing chief put it a day earlier — but the armed forces must resist those temptations.
But the paper warned that even well-meaning interventions can quickly turn into nightmares, as experiences from recent years show.
"The armed forces would be wise to focus on keeping Pakistan internally and externally secure and should leave it to the judiciary, the executive, the legislature and, most of all, the people to chart Pakistan's future," it wrote.
Outgoing Gen Bajwa has made a promise that his institution will stay apolitical and he reiterated it on Wednesday in his last public address.
Gen Munir's appointment comes at a crucial time for the cash-strapped country where the military has always wielded great influence in politics and foreign policy.
Pakistan is facing an economic crisis while it is also trying to recover from devastating floods earlier this year.
Since Pakistan was created 75 years ago, the Army has seized power three times and directly ruled the country for almost four decades.
The Dawn newspaper urged Gen Munir to make good on his predecessor's promise without regard to any pressure from any of the political players currently in the fray.
The News International in its editorial opined that the democratic system should be a red line for all political parties. Now that things have settled down, it is important that all political parties and state institutions play their constitutional roles and chalk out a new way forward.
"Political parties need to finally sit together, sign a new charter of democracy, form a consensus on the importance of making such appointments part of the regular and normal process instead of using them to remain politically relevant, and agree to stop trying to politicise apolitical institutions," it wrote.
It is important for the system to heal now and for a much-needed political course correction. If elections are the demand, talk to each other instead of asking for interventions from the establishment.
Talking about the Army's claim of staying away from politics, the paper advised that if an institution is claiming neutrality, welcome it. "If democracy is really what political parties intend to uphold, then do it without being propped up by apolitical forces," it wrote.
It said that as the new chief takes over a country badly in need of healing. The outgoing army chief General Bajwa has clearly said that the military will not play any political role now and it is now on the institution to ensure this is upheld as policy. "Let this be the new normal," it said.
The paper also highlighted the unusual media frenzy over the appointment and political instability it generated in the country. They also highlighted that the new appointment was good for meritocracy in the country.
The Daily Times in its editorial highlighted that Gen Bajwa promised something phenomenally history-making to the nation before passing the coveted baton that the armed forces would remain apolitical come what may because meddling in politics stands in direct contravention to its constitutionally-mandated role would be tremendously hard to follow through.
"We, at Daily Times, can only hope that General Munir would prove to be the miraculous return to normalcy that this country has desperately carried a torch for. May this be the new start that would leave a lasting impression for cool-headedness, democratic disposition and across-the-board reconciliation," it concluded.
The Express Tribune in its editorial under the title ‘Triumph of Merit’ termed the appointment of the two senior most officers on key posts as a moment of realisation of merit.
"For the first time in many decades in the country, the Army Chief has been named on the basis of seniority. There wasn't any pick and choose this time around, as several times in the past," it wrote also on the appointment of Gen Sahir Shamshad Mirza who will succeed Gen Nadeem Raza as the Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee.
It opined that not only the hyperbolic diatribe that had been underway for weeks as to who will be Gen Bajwa's successor has come to an end but also Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, unlike his predecessors, by going with the pro-forma that came as an advice from the military establishment to the Ministry of Defence has turned a new leaf of meritocracy.
The paper also wrote that former prime minister and Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party chairman Imran Khan's endorsement of the nomination is a good omen for the fragile democracy in vogue, and will definitely go a long way in eulogising the rule of law and Constitution in the country.