ISLAMABAD: The Shehbaz Sharif-led government in Pakistan confirmed Wednesday that it had received from the defence ministry a summary on the appointment of the next army chief, days before Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa is due to retire. The announcement laid to rest speculation, claims and counter claims about a deadlock between the government and the army over who would get what is arguably Pakistan’s most important post after the prime ministership once the incumbent bows out on November 29.
“The PM’s office has received a panel of names for the posts of chairman, joint chiefs of staff committee, and the chief of army staff. The PM will take a decision on the appointments as per procedure,” Sharif’s office tweeted.
Past midnight, the Inter-Services Public Relations said a list of names of senior generals had been sent to the defence ministry. Neither the agency nor the PM’s office mentioned the contenders – Lt Gen Asim Munir, Lt Gen Sahir Shamshad Mirza, Lt Gen Azhar Abbas, Lt Gen Nauman Mehmood, Lt Gen Faiz Hameed and Lt Gen Mohammad Amir – who are in order of seniority.
Defence minister Khwaja Muhammad Asif said the PM would appoint Gen Bajwa’s successor ahead of leaving on a trip to Ankara on November 25. “The PM will leave on Friday evening. So, it will be settled before then,” Asif said, pointing out that the process should never have been a matter of public debate.
The minister refuted reports that the summary received by the government contained four names on which objections were raised. “That is incorrect,” he said, requesting the media to avoid speculation.
After making the choice, the PM would advise President Arif Alvi to appoint the chosen general as the next army chief. It remains to be seen if the President would agree with the government’s pick or send the proposal back for reconsideration.
All of this will play out against the backdrop of former PM Imran Khan possibly resuming his long march in the garrison city of Rawalpindi on November 26, just three days before Gen Bajwa’s retirement and likely a day after the appointment of his successor.
PM Sharif has distanced himself from print and broadcast coverage since the start of November. Earlier this month, he quietly left for a climate change conference in Egypt, then landed in London on a private trip and stayed there for a week before returning to the country.
On arrival, he was diagnosed with Covid, thus restricting his movement to the PM’s house. He is understood to have held meetings with people who matter in influencing the crucial decision.
Government sources said that before the defence ministry issued its summary, Gen Bajwa met Shehbaz and “all the matters were sorted out”. His meetings with former President Asif Ali Zardari and consultations with his exiled elder brother and former PM Nawaz Sharif in London helped break the stalemate over the new appointments, they said.