LONDON: The senior-most officer will be appointed as the next army chief, a high-level PML-N huddle Friday decided, as the retirement date of Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Qamar Javed Bajwa nears.
The decision was taken during a meeting of the PML-N leadership, with party supremo Nawaz Sharif, vice president Maryam Nawaz, and Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif in presence.
COAS Bajwa is set to retire on November 29 and the PML-N — the major stakeholder in the ruling coalition — has resolved to appoint the senior-most officer whose name is at the top of the list that would be sent to the government.
Following his fourth and two-hour-long meeting with Nawaz, PM Shahbaz told journalists that the army chief's appointment is a constitutional matter and would decide in line with the constitution.
Apart from the crucial matter of the army chief's appointment, the high-level huddle took important decisions in London and the PML-N will later take the coalition partners into confidence over them.
PM Shahbaz is now returning to Pakistan, following the meetings. He had arrived in the British capital after concluding his two-day visit to Egypt, where he attended the COP27 summit.
In an interview on Geo News' programme "Aaj Shahzeb Khanzada Kay Saath", PPP leader Qamar Zaman Kaira — whose party also holds an important position in the ruling alliance — said merit would determine who becomes the next army chief.
"The [government] will appoint the next army chief from among the top-five senior generals," Kaira said and mentioned that PM Shehbaz would return to Pakistan and deliberate over the matter with the government leadership and PDM chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman.
Lashing out at PTI Chairman Imran Khan, Kaira said the person against whom Khan has reservations was the same man with whom he spent four years in power.
Meanwhile, Khan has also reiterated his stance on appointing the army chief on "merit" and criticised PM Shehbaz for consulting Nawaz for making this decision.
During his address to participants of his party's long march in Gujrat via video link, Khan said: "Whoever fits the merit, should be appointed the army chief."
“Nawaz Sharif always brings up the man who is beneficial for him,” Khan said referring to the appointment’s decision.
The PTI chief is holding a long march towards Islamabad and has constantly called on the government to step down, alleging that it had come into power through a US-backed conspiracy.
Among his demands, Khan has also been vocal about holding snap elections in the country, but the government has maintained that the polls will take place on time.
During the London meetings, PM Shahbaz and PML-N supremo Nawaz also resolved not to come under PTI’s pressure, especially on its key demand of early elections, sources told Geo News.
Nawaz told Shahbaz to “continue doing his best to take Pakistan out of the economic crisis” and “not succumb to any kind of pressure”.
The brothers resolved that the elections would be held on time and PTI chief's planned march to Islamabad would be dealt with legally, shared the source.
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