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Friday January 27, 2023

Shift in PTI stance with change of command in army

As the Pakistan Army’s command changes, the PTI’s expectations of the military establishment shift

November 30, 2022
PTI leader Fawad Chaudhry. The News File
PTI leader Fawad Chaudhry. The News File

ISLAMABAD: As the Pakistan Army’s command changes, the PTI’s expectations of the military establishment shift.

Senior PTI leader Fawad Chaudhry told The News that we don’t ask the new establishment to bring us early elections, but we do expect it to stay politically neutral, not take sides and not block the elections.

Fawad Chaudhry was asked if the PTI and its Chairman Imran Khan would also expect new army chief Gen Asim Munir to use his influence for early elections, he said, “No, we don’t.” Instead, Chaudhry hopes that the establishment does not obstruct early elections.

He said that politically, the military establishment should not take any sides. He maintained that the PTI will manage early elections, for which it has decided to dissolve the Punjab and KPK assemblies and resign from all other assemblies.

Fawad Chaudhry also referred to Asad Umar’s tweet, in which the latter said that Gen Asim Munir’s top priority should be to restore the relationship of love and respect between the people and the top military command. Asad Umar added that such a relationship could neither be one-sided nor be maintained by the use of force or coercive measures. Asad Umar added in his tweet that the decisions of the last eight months have badly hurt the bond between the people and the military’s top command. The PTI leader concluded that the armed forces, who are defending the country, continue to remain the nation’s pride.

Fawad Chaudhry, when asked about the PTI’s stance on the 2020 amendments to the armed forces law, which allow extension to the defence forces’ chiefs, said the PTI is in favour of undoing the legislation. He assured that his party would support any such move initiated by anyone. Since the retirement of Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa and ever since the ouster of the Imran Khan government, the PTI has been consistently pressuring the military establishment under Gen Bajwa to remove the present government and pave the way for early elections. Bajwa, who had been the PTI’s darling and highly praised army chief during the Imran Khan government, became the villain for not foiling the no-trust move against Khan’s government in April this year.

In his repeated interviews during his premiership, Khan has been praising Gen Bajwa, who is alleged to have facilitated through political engineering the victory of Imran Khan in the 2018 elections. Gen Bajwa, who was appointed Army Chief by Nawaz Sharif in 2016, was given a three-year extension in 2019 by Imran Khan. Later, following the controversial intervention of the Supreme Court, parliament, with the support of PTI, PMLN, PPP, and other parties, except the JUI-F and Jamaat-i-Islami, introduced legislative provisions for extension of services chiefs.

There is a growing recognition across the political spectrum that the law allowing for the extension of the chief of services’ tenure causes more harm than good. Many in the ruling coalition also want to undo the law and fix the non-extendable tenure of defence force chiefs to three years. A senior PMLN leader recently told this correspondent that the 2020 law would be undone at the right time.

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