ISLAMABAD: Defence Minister Khawaja Asif on Wednesday said that the process for appointing the new chief of army staff would begin within weeks and assured that it would be done according to the Constitution.
Speaking at a press conference, the defence minister said the appointment procedure would commence by the end of the current month or latest by the start of November.
Army Chief Gen Qamar Bajwa is set to retire on Nov 29. The outgoing COAS ended all speculations about him getting another extension when at an event in Washington he confirmed that he would be stepping down at the end of his extended tenure in November.
Hailing Gen Bajwa’s statement, the defence minister said it had ended uncertainty that existed for the past several weeks.
Says Imran Khan is ‘duplicitous’ and trying to engage military in closed-door meetings
Mr Asif said that appointment of the army chief was the prime minister’s discretion and would be done in accordance with the law and Constitution.
According to Article 243 (3) of the Constitution, the president would appoint the services chiefs on the recommendation of the prime minister.
He said the usual practice was to appoint an army chief from a panel of five nominees routed by the General Headquarters through the defence ministry. But, at the same time, he recalled that there had been instances in the past when army chiefs had been appointed from outside the recommended panel.
It is believed that Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif would make the appointment in consultation with his brother and PML-N supreme leader Nawaz Sharif and other allies in the ruling coalition.
Mr Asif’s press conference was importantly held against the backdrop of claims by various quarters that Gen Bajwa could possibly meet Nawaz Sharif and his daughter Maryam Nawaz in London on Friday while returning from the US visit.
The defence minister said that Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf chief Imran Khan’s political anxiety was because of the upcoming COAS’s appointment and hoped that November would pass uneventfully.
In reply to a question about the composition of Gen Bajwa’s delegation during his US trip, Mr Asif said he was accompanied by his personal staff and no one else joined him on the tour.
Media had earlier claimed that a few senior generals including Chief of General Staff Lt Gen Azhar Abbas, who is a contender for the elevation to four-star position, Director General of ISI Lt Gen Nadeem Anjum and Director General of Military Operations Maj Gen Avias Dastgir accompanied the army chief.
The defence minister appealed to the people to stand by the army which was battling a “low-intensity” militancy in the country.
“The army is fighting terrorism and it is our responsibility to stand behind it at this time,” he said as he lashed out at former prime minister Imran Khan for being critical of the military.
He said that Mr Khan was “duplicitous” and was trying to engage the military in closed-door meetings, in a reference to the meeting held at the Presidency at the initiative of President Arif Alvi, while disparaging the army generals in his public rallies.
Mr Asif said that the government would take action against Mr Khan, but it was getting delayed in an effort to build a water-tight case against him so that he could not get any relief from courts.
Published in Dawn, October 6th, 2022