Defence Minister Khawaja Asif on Monday debunked reports of consultation with PML-N supremo Nawaz Sharif over the army chief’s appointment, reiterating that the decision was “strictly Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif’s prerogative”.
Talking to reporters outside the parliament today, he said: “Consultations have not yet taken place on the army chief’s appointment. These are just newspaper reports.”
Asif clarified that the name of the new army chief had not been decided yet.
“The prime minister has discretion regarding the army chief’s appointment. Therefore, the prime minister will make a decision on the appointment,” he added.
Army Chief Gen Qamar Bajwa is set to retire on Nov 29. The outgoing chief of army staff 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 this month.
Last month, the defence minister stated that the process officially begins around Nov 18 and by Nov 29 the country will have a new army chief.
Asif’s remarks today come as speculations intensify on the future army chief, a process that has entered the political discourse of late due to ousted prime minister Imran Khan.
According to a Dawn report, the Sharif brothers have reportedly decided in a London huddle that the prime minister will not buckle under any ‘pressure’ to make the all-important appointment — come what may.
After attending the COP27 climate conference last week, the prime minister had flown to London, apparently to consult his elder brother Nawaz Sharif on the appointment of the new army chief later this month.
Commenting on the development, Imran had said it was unimaginable that “important decisions are taken abroad by those who have plundered the state wealth for the past 30 years”.
“This is a violation of the Official Secrets Act. We will consult our lawyers […] How can he [Shehbaz] consult with an absconder and a convict regarding such an important decision,” the PTI chief had said.
Meanwhile, in an interview with Geo News journalist Hamid Mir later today, Asif alleged that Imran was trying to make the army chief’s appointment “controversial” since last October.
“We often meet Mian Nawaz Sharif to discuss several issues […] but no consultation has been held on this matter,” he reiterated, adding that the process of the crucial appointment had not even begun yet.