ISLAMABAD: In a week that will see a change of command within the military, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif on Tuesday took former president Asif Ali Zardari, a key ally of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) government, into confidence over the crucial posting.
According to the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO), Mr Zardari called on the prime minister and discussed the country’s overall political situation. However, a source familiar with details of the meeting said the army chief’s appointment was also discussed during the meeting.
The source said the PPP leader expressed “full confidence” in PM Sharif and assured that his party will stand by whatever decision the prime minister will take about the appointment of the next army chief.
According to the source, the government has decided that the appointment of the next COAS will be made before Nov 27 — two days before the retirement of Gen Bajwa. The source added that the government, its allies, and the military establishment were on the same page pertaining to the army chief’s appointment.
Ex-president calls on convalescing PM, sources say consultations with allies in the final stages
The premier is also expected to meet some other leaders of the ruling coalition today (Wednesday) to put the final touches on the process for the appointment of a new chief.
Recently, PM Sharif visited London where he consulted his party’s supreme leader and elder brother, Nawaz Sharif, regarding the appointment of the new COAS and after his return, the PM took all coalition partners on board.
Last week, the prime minister held a meeting with the ruling coalition Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) chief, Maulana Fazlur Rehman, over the matter of the army chief’s appointment.
On the other hand, the role of President Dr Arif Alvi has come to the fore in the process of appointment of the new COAS, with some media reports claiming that Mr Alvi could “withhold the notification of the appointment for 25 days”.
However, PM’s spokesperson Fahd Hussain, while talking to Dawn, ruled out the possibility of such an action by the president.
Meanwhile, PM Sharif is scheduled to leave for Ankara on a two-day visit on Nov 25 at the invitation of Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan. While there, PM Shehbaz will also inaugurate a frigate, built by the Pakistan Navy with the cooperation of Turkiye, during his visit.
In a late-night development, Geo News claimed that the premier had changed his travel plans, but this was denied by the information minister, who told Dawn there is no truth to such rumours.
Published in Dawn, November 23rd, 2022