General Asim Munir takes charge as chief of Pakistan's powerful army

Outgoing Chief of Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa hands over the baton of command over to the newly appointed Army Chief General Asim Munir (L), during a ceremony at the army headquarters in Rawalpindi, Pakistan November 29, 2022. Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR)/Handout via REUTERS

RAWALPINDI, Pakistan (Reuters) - General Asim Munir on Tuesday took charge as Pakistan's new army chief, a key change of command in an institution that plays a huge influential role in the governance of the nuclear-armed nation.

Munir, who was named as the new chief last week, takes control at a time when the army has been drawn into a political showdown between the government and former Prime Minister Imran Khan, even as the country faces an economic crisis.

"I am certain that his (Munir's) appointment will prove positive for the army and the country," outgoing chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa said at a handover ceremony at the army's General Headquarters in the garrison city of Rawalpindi.

Bajwa, who served as chief for six years, has recently drawn the ire of Khan and his supporters, who claimed that the army played a part in his ouster from premiership in April in a no-confidence vote. The army has denied any role.

"General Asim Munir's first priority is to restore the relationship of respect and love between the nation and the military leadership," Asad Umar, a senior Khan aide, said on Twitter on Tuesday.

Khan, meanwhile, has said he would continue with his campaign to press the government to hold early elections. He has also threatened to dissolve provincial assemblies under his party's control, which could lead to a constitutional crisis.

Munir also faces a possible resurgence of militant activity in the country, with the Pakistani Taliban announcing a day earlier that it will no longer abide by a months-long ceasefire with the government.

(Reporting by Gibran Peshimam; Editing by Arun Koyyur)

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