ISLAMABAD: President of Pakistan Dr Arif Alvi says Prime Minister Imran Khan has not yet consulted him over the appointment of a new army chief, adding that he (the prime minister) would “definitely do (so) when the time comes”.

The president expressed these views during an interview with DawnNewsTV’s Adil Shahzeb on Tuesday night. His comments came a day after Chief of the Army Staff (COAS) Gen Qamar Bajwa held separate meetings with the president and prime minister, on the same day.

While it is rare for the army chief to meet both men on the same day, another interesting detail came to light when Dr Alvi revealed during the interview that he had also met the PM on Monday.

During the interview, when the president was asked if PM Khan had initiated consultations on the matter of appointing a new COAS, referring to the premier’s statement in January that no decision had been taken on the issue, Dr Alvi replied in the negative, saying: “No, but I think he will definitely (do that) when the time comes.”

President reveals he met PM after their separate meetings with army chief on Monday

However, in the same breath, the president said he had met the PM on Monday and the exchange was “quite positive”. Interestingly, the PM Office did not release any press statement about such a meeting between the president and the premier.

This lends credence to the notion that something important was discussed as both secretariats did not issue any press statements, which is standard practice after such meetings.

“I told the PM that seven to eight areas in Pakistan witnessed a big change, including for the farmers, businessmen. I also think legislation on women rights was also very good… and I discussed these areas with the PM,” Dr Alvi said.

It is worth noting that Gen Bajwa’s tenure will end in November. Gen Bajwa’s tenure was extended for three years in August 2019, three months before he was set to retire.

The extension was taken up by the Supreme Court, and after much debate the COAS was allowed to retain his position for six months after the government legislated on the matter.

Legislation to this effect was passed in January 2020, allowing the premier to extend the army chief’s tenure once.

Talking about the reason behind the meeting with the COAS, President Alvi told DawnNewsTV he was seriously concerned over the recent terrorist incidents in Balochistan.

“Gen Bajwa shared different reasons for (the spike in such incidents), including how the withdrawal of the US forces from Afghanistan has led to a situation where weapons such as night-vision goggles and guns, which Pakistan army does not possess but Americans did, have (somehow) reached the terrorists,” he said.

He also gave his views on the opposition’s plan to move a no-trust motion against the PTI government in the National Assembly.

President Alvi said that it was not an issue to be debated and he had been hearing such things since 2018. “It is a waste of time, time which can instead be spent on positive and substantive discussions,” he said, adding the government was here to stay and was not going anywhere.

The president also condemned the recent lynching in Punjab’s Khanewal district. However, he got worked up when asked whether the government was responsible for stopping such incidents from happening.

He said that the government should not be held accountable for everything, adding that the public also had a role to play in preventing such incidents.

Published in Dawn, February 16th, 2022

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