Pakistan PM Sharif will appoint new Army chief in November: Defence Minister Asif

ISLAMABAD — Pakistan Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif will appoint a new Army chief on time in November, Defence Minister Khawaja Asif said on Saturday and accused former premier Imran Khan of raking up controversy for his personal benefit.

Asif’s remarks came days after Khan demanded that the next Chief of Army Staff should be appointed by the new government after fresh elections.

Army chief General Javed Bajwa, 61, would retire on November 29 and his successor is expected to be announced by the Prime Minister who is legally authorised to appoint the army chief.

“Former premier Nawaz Sharif has fulfilled this political responsibility four times and Shehbaz will do the same in November,” Asif said in response to a question while addressing a press conference.

He said that the policy over the Army chief’s appointment was clear in the Constitution but Khan was trying to make it controversial.

“He just wants to make the Army chief’s appointment controversial,” he said, adding that no one had any doubt about the loyalty of the head of the Army to the Constitution and the institutions.

He also alleged that Khan, chairman of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party, would not hesitate in sabotaging Pakistan for his personal benefit.

“Politics is separate but institutions should not be made controversial,” the defence minister said.

Asif also warned Khan to stop the pursuit of making the appointment of the new army chief controversial as it emboldens India, Samaa TV reported.

Khan said in an interview that the incumbent was not competent enough to appoint the new Army chief and that the issue should be left for the next government.

He also demanded fresh elections. The appointment of the Army chief creates a lot of interest and heat due to the power enjoyed by the head of the Army in Pakistan.

Speaking about the recent statements by different people against the country’s national security, Asif warned that action would be taken against them.

Bajwa has held the top post of the Pakistan Army for six years.

He was initially appointed in 2016, but after three years of tenure, the then government of Khan in 2019 extended his service for another three years.

The appointment of the Army chief is the sole prerogative of the prime minister.

When Khan was in power, the opposition accused him of trying to bring an army chief of his choice, who could support his alleged agenda of victimising opposition leaders.

Since he lost power, the equation has changed and now Khan is saying that the coalition government wants to install an army head of its choice to protect looted wealth and steal general elections.

The powerful Army, which has ruled the coup-prone country for more than half of its 75-plus years of existence, has hitherto wielded considerable power in the matters of security and foreign policy.

Addressing a public rally in Faisalabad earlier this month, Khan had alleged that the government was afraid of fair elections and delaying the polls until the appointment of the new Army chief by the end of November when the incumbent Gen Bajwa would retire.

“(Asif Ali) Zardari and Nawaz (Sharif) want to bring their favourite as the next army chief because they have stolen public money,” Khan alleged. “They are afraid that when the patriotic army chief comes, he will ask them about their loot.”

Strongly objecting to Khan’s remarks, the Army issued a statement in which it accused him of making an attempt to discredit and undermine senior leadership of the Pakistan Army at a time when the institution is laying lives for the security and safety of the people. — (PTI)