Pakistan defence minister says new army chief to be appointed before PM Sharif's Turkey visit

NewsDrum Desk
23 Nov 2022
Pakistan defence minister says new army chief to be appointed before PM Sharif's Turkey visit

Islamabad: Pakistan's Defence Minister Khawaja Asif Wednesday said he expected the new army chief to be appointed before Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif's visit to Turkey on Friday, hours after the premier's office announced that it has received the names of six top generals for the coveted post.

Army chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa, 61, is scheduled to retire on November 29 after a three-year extension. He has ruled out seeking another extension.

"The prime minister will leave the day after tomorrow in the evening. So it (the appointment of new army chief) will be settled before then," Asif said.

The Prime Minister's Office (PMO) will send the summary to President Arif Alvi who will notify the appointments of the Chief of Army Staff (COAS) and the Chairman Joint Chief of Staff Committee (CJCSC).

Prime Minister Sharif was scheduled to leave for Ankara on a two-day visit on Friday at the invitation of Turkish President Reccip Tayyip Erdogan.

Also Read: Who will be the next Pakistan army Chief?

Earlier, the PMO issued a brief statement on Twitter announcing that it has received the summary from the Ministry of Defence for the appointments of the COAS and CJCSC.

"The prime minister will take a decision on the appointments as per the laid down procedure,” according to the statement.

The Army also confirmed that it had sent the names of six top lieutenant generals for the appointments.

Although it did not mention the names, but it is believed that the six men include Lt Gen Asim Munir (currently Quarter Master General), Lt Gen Sahir Shamshad Mirza (Commander 10 Corps), Lt Gen Azhar Abbas (Chief of General Staff), Lt Gen Nauman Mehmood (National Defence University Presi­dent), Lt Gen Faiz Hamid (Commander Baha­walpur Corps), and Lt Gen Mohammad Amir (Com­mander Gujranwala Corps).

Two of them would be picked by Prime Minister Sharif for promotion and appointment for the posts of COAS and CJCSC before November 29.

Talking to reporters later, Asif said that the formalities, the procedure laid down in the law will likely take a day and reiterated that the matter would be decided once the formalities were completed.

When asked whether the new army chief would be the senior-most candidate, he said, "I don’t know. You can ask someone else I don’t know." To another question about the discussion of the appointments in the cabinet, the minister said that he was “not aware” of this because the appointment was a “technical” issue. He also said that the cabinet would be taken into confidence if a meeting was convened.

He said that the prime minister would also take the coalition government into confidence about the appointments during a meeting scheduled later Wednesday.

Asif rejected the media reports that a summary was received by the government containing four names on which objections were raised. "That is incorrect," he said.

The minister urged the media to avoid unnecessary speculation. "The media has been representing vested interests. I think the media shouldn’t be partisan,” he said.

To a question about the possibility of Imran Khan calling off his long march protest after the appointment of the army chief, the minister refused to speculate about it but acknowledged the prevailing uncertainty which he stressed would end once the issue of appointment was settled.

"I don’t want to speculate but the uncertainty prevailing over the past few months will end once the issue is settled in one or two days," he said.

His remarks came as the clouds of uncertainty around the appointment of the new army chief began to lift after the government announced that it finally received names of senior generals for top selections.

The CJCSC is the highest authority in the hierarchy of the armed forces but the key powers including mobilisation of troops, appointments and transfers lie with the COAS which makes the person holding the post the most powerful in the military.

The powerful Army, which has ruled Pakistan for more than half of its 75-plus years of existence, has hitherto wielded considerable power in matters of security and foreign policy.

The recommendation of the Prime Minister is binding on the President but the latter can delay the appointment for some time. Some media reports showed that the President can hold the summary for the appointment for 25 days.

However, the government official rejected the reports that the president could delay the appointment.

There has been extraordinary interest in the appointment of Bajwa's successor as many believe ousted prime minister Khan's long march is linked to the change of command in the Army.

He has asked his supporters to gather in Rawalpindi on November 26, two days before Gen Bajwa hands over the baton to the new Army chief.

The debate over the appointment of the new chief has intensified since the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR), the media wing of the military, confirmed last week that General Bajwa would doff off his uniform on November 29.

The debate is also linked to the current political stalemate stemming from Khan’s long march demanding early elections.

Political observers are of the view that one of the objectives of Khan’s long march is to influence the army chief's appointment even though Khan has denied such claims.

Prime Minister Sharif recently paid a private visit to London where he consulted his brother and former prime minister Nawaz Sharif on the issue and after his return, he took all coalition partners on board.

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