President Dr Arif Alvi on Monday said that “broader consultation” on the appointment of the chief of army staff (COAS) was a must so that a consensus could be developed.
In an interview with journalist Asma Shirazi on Aaj TV, the president desired that a summary of the appointment be sent to him after the consultation has been completed.
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.
The next army chief’s appointment is at times mentioned as one of the major subplots in the ongoing political crisis engulfing the country.
Responding to a question about his role in the decision, President Alvi said that he would approve the appointment of the next COAS in line with the procedure laid out in the Constitution.
He said that in the past, too, the opposition was consulted on the appointment of the army chief. A similar discussion with the then-opposition was held when PTI chief Imran Khan extended the three-year term of General Bajwa in 2019, the president pointed out.
In 2019, Alvi went on, the National Assembly had approved a law to extend Gen Bajwa’s terms after questions were raised before the Supreme Court of Pakistan.
“The law must have been introduced in the Parliament after closure was reached during a consultation.”
‘Not convinced about foreign conspiracy’
Talking about PTI’s alleged foreign conspiracy, President Alvi said that he was not convinced that the United States had lodged a conspiracy to oust Imran.
Ever since his ouster, Imran has said that the no-confidence motion against him was part of a foreign conspiracy, claiming that the cable received from the ambassador on March 7, a day before the opposition officially filed the no-trust move against him, was evidence of the conspiracy.
During the interview today, Alvi said: “I sent that letter to the chief justice. I am convinced that there must be a probe on it. I am not convinced on the fact that a conspiracy was hatched. But I have my doubts [and] there must be a probe.
“I also said that you won’t get a smoking gun on it,” he stated, adding that he had requested the Supreme Court to take into account the circumstantial evidence.
‘Impartial as president’
In response to a question on bridging gaps between the incumbent government and PTI, Alvi said that he was impartial as the president of the country and that his affiliation with the PTI was a thing of the past. “The party is my past. It is a very good past.”
The president said that there were several problems in the country that “a maverick” alone could not solve. A president could make efforts to bridge that gulf, he stated.
On Imran’s refusal to hold talks with the government, the president said that the PTI chief had become “extremely frustrated” when his government was ousted.
“After becoming frustrated, he decided that he would not sit in the National Assembly,” he said, adding that if he was consulted regarding the decision, he “might have offered different advice”.
Answering a question about Imran’s march and the military’s role, the president asserted that the military had a constitutional role to play.
When asked if the army was ‘neutral’, he said they should be.