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Mon. Oct 3rd, 2022
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ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s Shehbaz Sharif-led government on Tuesday rejected former PM Imran Khan’s proposal to extend army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa’s tenure beyond his scheduled retirement this November.
The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party chief has amid months of political instability reiterated his stance that the present administration should not appoint the next army chief, arguing that such an important decision should be made on merit by the government elected to power after fresh polls.
The proposal made by Khan — ousted as PM after losing a trust vote in April this year – was rejected by defence minister Khwaja Asif, saying he had stooped so low in his lust for power that he was now making the army chief’s appointment controversial with a well-thought-out plan.
“The current government will reach a decision regarding the appointment at the right time keeping in mind the traditions set by the Constitution and the institution (army). Important national decisions are not subject to political interests,” the minister said, adding two-and-a-half months still remained in Bajwa’s tenure.
“It is not in the interest of the country to talk about this issue at this time, nor is it in the interest of the organisation (army) to drag its leader, responsible for defence, into politics,” Asif added.
Last week, Khan had alleged that former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif — current PM Shehbaz’s brother — and ex-president Asif Ali Zardari wanted to appoint their “favourite” army chief to protect their “looted wealth”. The military was “aghast” and denounced the remarks as “defamatory and uncalled for”.
In a late-night TV talk show on Monday, Khan repeated his position and his earlier allegations. “I will repeat this again and again that Asif Zardari and Nawaz Sharif are not qualified on merit to make this appointment. Every decision these two take is aimed to save their stolen wealth,” Khan alleged, adding that Sharif is a convict in graft cases and an absconder, while Zardari has been involved in corruption for three decades.
“If the current ruling parties manage to come back to power after free and fair elections, I would have no issue with them appointing a new chief,” the PTI chief said.
This prompted the talk show host to ask whether he was proposing an extension in Bajwa’s term after November as elections could take three months after being announced.
Khan responded that he was told by his lawyers a provision could be found for a new government to make the appointment. “This is not a major issue,” Khan remarked.
The appointment of a new army chief has always been considered the toughest decision for a Pakistan PM. The president appoints the army chief on the recommendation of the PM. The army’s high command sends a list of four to five senior-most lieutenant-generals to the ministry of defence, which forwards them to the PM to pick the officer he finds most suitable.
Theoretically, the defence ministry has to screen the names before presenting them to the PM. But the ministry merely acts as a post office between the PM and army’s top command.
Nawaz Sharif was the only PM who appointed five army chiefs during his separate tenures. Ironically, none of the appointments had worked out well for him. Current chief Bajwa was also appointed by him in November 2017. On completion of his three-year term in 2020, Khan had as PM given Bajwa another full-term extension.

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