ISLAMABAD: The new army chief is now expected to be controversy-free as the PTI seems to have decided not to make the incoming COAS controversial, whereas Nawaz Sharif has too learnt the lesson of compromising seniority for the sake of a “loyal” army chief.
Sharif and other PMLN leaders have now realised through their own experiences and what history shows that no matter who you select as army chief, expecting loyalty from him is flawed. It is admitted now that ignoring seniority for political reasons has hardly worked in the past for any chief executive, including Nawaz Sharif.
“The chief always belongs to the army,” a PMLN source said, adding that Nawaz Sharif has given his mind to Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif during their recent meetings in London, where the premier had rushed for some pressing reasons.
Defence Minister Khawaja Asif and Prime Minister’s Special Assistant Malik Ahmad Khan were specially invited to attend the London deliberations because of their recent “important meetings” that they had attended in Pakistan. Asif and Khan had something important to share with Nawaz Sharif.
As was hinted at by The News several days ago, this time PMLN’s Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif will place more emphasis on seniority in the appointment of a new army chief. Senior officers will have a better chance of getting the top two four-star military positions: Army Chief of Staff and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee.
The process of initiating these appointments will likely start after the 18th of this month. Still, even if the government decides to make these appointments in the next few days, the seniority-cumulative fitness rule would not affect the “decision” of the PMLN. Before these appointments are announced, the PMLN will not like to discuss the issue in public.
Till a few weeks ago, Imran Khan had his reservations about one of the lieutenant generals vying for the top military positions. However, not only Imran Khan, but all other PTI leaders have stated that they will support whoever is appointed as army chief. Khan, for purely political reasons, is now only questioning Nawaz Sharif’s competence in choosing a new army chief.
This situation is encouraging for the reason that the new army chief will not be unnecessarily dragged into politics by any side for their political gains. Regarding the London meetings held between Nawaz Sharif and PM Shehbaz Sharif, it was decided to ignore political commentary and public discussions on the new army chief. It was also agreed to avoid those suggesting an extension to the appointment of the incumbent army chief, who has already announced his retirement by the end of this month.
A source said that the demands or suggestions like the dissolution of the present government and the National Assembly, the holding of early elections, the installation of an interim government for six months, etc. were ruled out by the London deliberations. Nawaz Sharif was quoted as saying that no compromise will be made on this issue even if the government is removed or any other extreme step is taken.
It was discussed how an interim government could prolong its tenure for several months, whereas the Constitution provides for a maximum of three months tenure. The situation for the PMLN’s top leadership was tense until early last week, but now the reasons for their tension have subsided.
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