Allies ‘trust’ Shehbaz with COAS appointment

Published November 24, 2022
ISLAMABAD: Former president Asif Ali Zardari meets PML-Q leader Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain at his residence on Wednesday.—White Star
ISLAMABAD: Former president Asif Ali Zardari meets PML-Q leader Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain at his residence on Wednesday.—White Star

ISLAMABAD: The allies of the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) expressed confidence in Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif regarding the appointment of the next army chief a day after the premier received a summary containing names of six lieutenant generals for the posts of the chief of army staff (COAS) and chairman joint chiefs of staff committee (CJCSC).

A statement issued by the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) stated that the PM presided over a meeting of the heads of political parties, which are part of the ruling coalition, to take them into confidence ahead of the appointment of the COAS, expected to be announced before his visit to Ankara on Nov 25.

According to the PMO, PPP leaders Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari and Asif Ali Zardari, PML-Q President Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain, MQM-P Convener Khalid Maqbool Siddiqui, Balochis­tan Awami Party head Khalid Magsi, Balochistan National Party chief Akhtar Mengal, and National Demo­cratic Movement President Mohsin Dawar, among others, attended the meeting.

The statement said Mr Zardari and his son Mr Bhutto-Zardari expressed gratitude to the PM for taking all allies on board regarding the “important decision”. “Although it is solely your [PM’s] prerogative to appoint any of the candidates, we are grateful to you [PM] for keeping us all on board on the important matter,” Mr Bhutto-Zardari was quoted as saying.

The PML-Q president, during the meeting, said that it was the constitutional right of the PM to appoint anyone from the nominees as the new army chief.

“We firmly stand by you [PM] on whatever decision you will take on the matter,” said Mr Magsi. Mr Siddiqui was quoted as saying: “We have full confidence in you…this is your constitutional right. We are thankful to you for keeping us on board.”

Though JUI-F chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman was not present at the meeting of the allied parties due to the oath-taking ceremony of the KP governor in Peshawar, he along with son Asad Mahmood, the federal minister for communications, called on the prime minister later in the day.

Earlier in the day, PML-Q President Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain and PPP leader Asif Ali Zardari met PM Sharif, separately, at the Prime Minister’s House. Sources in the government told Dawn that the premier will also preside over a meeting of the federal cabinet today (Thursday) to discuss the appointment of the army chief.

Prior to the meeting, the premier will once again meet some of the government allies as a part of the consultative process. A meeting between the outgoing army chief, General Qamar Javed Bajwa, and the prime minister is also expected regarding the appointment of the next chief.

Summary for COAS

The PMO confirmed that it had received the summary from the Defence Ministry for the appointment of the CJCSC and COAS.

“The PM’s Office has received the summary from the Ministry of Defence with a panel of names for the appointment of Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee and Chief of the Army Staff,” the official Twitter handle of the PM’s Office said. “The prime minister will take a decision on the appointments as per the laid down procedure,” the statement added.

The summary containing the names of the generals was sent by the General Headquarters (GHQ) Tuesday night to the Ministry of Defence, said the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) in a tweet. According to media reports, six generals in the run for the top slots include Lt-Gen Asim Munir (Quarter Master General), Lt-Gen Sahir Shamshad Mirza (Commander 10 Corps), Lt-Gen Azhar Abbas (Chief of General Staff), Lt-Gen Nauman Mehmood (NDU President), Lt-Gen Faiz Hamid (Commander Bahawalpur Corps), and Lt-Gen Mohammad Amir (Commander Gujranwala Corps).

Kh Asif media talk

Following the meeting of the allied parties, Defence Minister Khawaja Asif said the new army chief would likely be appointed before PM Sharif’s departure for Turkiye on Nov 25 on a two-day visit at the invitation of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

When asked if the matter of the chief’s appointment would be discussed in the cabinet meeting, the minister said he was “unaware”, calling it a “technical” matter. “Article 243 does not mention the cabinet,” one of the reporters remarked.

According to Article 243(3) of the Constitution, the president appoints the services chiefs on the recommendation of the prime minister. “I don’t know that many articles [of the Constitution], you should know,” Mr Asif quipped.

The minister was also asked about whether the PTI would call off its long march after the appointment was finalised. “I don’t want to speculate but the uncertainty prevailing over the past few months will end once the issue is settled in one or two days.”

“The prime minister will leave the day after tomorrow (Thursday) in the evening. So it will be settled before then,” he asserted. He also refuted media reports that a summary was received by the government containing four names on which objections were raised.

Published in Dawn, November 24th, 2022

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