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Monday July 22, 2024

Despite Gen Bajwa’s clear-cut ‘no’: Suggestions being made to PMLN to convince COAS to continue

Certain elements are suggesting to the top PMLN leadership to let the incumbent COAS continue as is the desire of Imran Khan

By Ansar Abbasi
November 09, 2022
Chief of the Army Staff Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa. ISPR
Chief of the Army Staff Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa. ISPR

ISLAMABAD: While Chief of the Army Staff Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa has clearly stated that he is retiring by the end of this month and is not seeking an extension, certain elements are suggesting to the top PMLN leadership to let the incumbent COAS continue as is the desire of Imran Khan.

Strangely, these elements hope the government will convince Gen Bajwa to continue. Last month, while addressing a security workshop in Islamabad, the army chief unambiguously said that he would not be seeking another extension and would be retiring by the end of November this year.

Informed sources said that the army chief, during the corps commanders meeting a few weeks ago, also took the top military commanders into confidence about his retirement plan. Later, he spoke to the prime minister and informed him that he was not interested in an extension and would be retiring at the end of November.

Imran Khan has been asking for the continuation of incumbent army chief until the new elections and coming into power of the newly-elected government. Khan believes that the future elected government should appoint the next army chief. He believes that the present government and the incumbent prime minister have no right to make the topmost military appointments.

Even on Tuesday, according to media reports, during his interaction with newsmen at his Zaman Park residence, when Imran Khan was asked whether Gen Bajwa would get an extension, he said that it was a million-dollar question.

The elements influencing the prime minister and PMLN’s top leadership are thought to be among the well-connected acquaintances. According to sources, the suggestion given to the premier and his party leadership is to convince the incumbent army chief to get an extension, dissolve the government and dissolve the National Assembly to pave the way for an interim government, which should continue for six to seven months for stabilisation of economy and politics. Later, elections would be held and the PMLN would have a fair playing field for the next elections.

The PMLN, however, said “no” to these options. Imran Khan seeks the removal of the present government and demands early elections. The prime minister and leaders of the ruling coalition insist on completing the term of the present assemblies and holding the next elections in October-November 2023.

Khan does not want the incumbent army chief to retire and seeks his continuation until the next elected government comes into power. The prime minister, following his conversation with the incumbent army chief, who wants to retire, is set to follow the procedure for the appointment anytime this month.

Imran Khan does not want the present government to appoint a new army chief. The prime minister and the ruling parties’ view is that the appointment of the army chief is the discretion of the premier and that the key military appointments would be made as per the law and Constitution.

Khan and the PTI are willing, as per their internal party discussions, to hold elections in mid-next year. Nawaz Sharif and other leaders of the ruling coalition, including Asif Ali Zardari and Maulana Fazlur Rehman, are not ready for mid-term polls.

Instead of continuation of the present Shehbaz Sharif government, an interim setup would be acceptable to Imran Khan, but it is not clear if the arrangement for a more extended period would be acceptable to him (Imran). Under the Constitution, the interim setup cannot extend beyond 90 days.