ISLAMABAD: The situation for the government was really tense on the subject of army chief’s appointment during the first fortnight of November.
Some elements had caused such huge tension for the government that Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif had to rush to London from Egypt, where he had gone to attend an international conference on climate change.
Two senior PMLN leaders, Khawaja Asif and Malik Ahmad Khan, were specially directed to join the London meetings with Mian Nawaz Sharif.
“Things are not good,” an informed government source had conveyed to The News then. He said that Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif had vowed not to announce who would be the next army chief till the end.
However, this correspondent was told that some elements had been persistent in conveying to the government to manage an extension. In fact, one of these elements, according to these sources, even had told the prime minister that he should convince General Bajwa for an extension.
However, Shehbaz did not respond. On the other hand, it was said, there have also been talks of martial law. The News, during those days, had been in touch with sources close to Gen Bajwa. The sources assured this correspondent repeatedly that Bajwa was not keen to continue beyond Nov 29. The sources had also assured that names of all eligible senior most lieutenant generals would be forwarded to the prime minister for the appointment of army chief and Chairman JCSC.
In the PMLN camp, Nawaz Sharif had been asking the prime minister and other party leaders to ignore and show complete indifference to whatever was going on. During those days, suggestions were made to the government and PMLN top leadership about who should be the next army chief. There was also a proposal for the appointment of Lt Gen Sahir Shamshad as army chief. Nawaz and Shehbaz, however, remained stood by their decision. It is also said that sometime back, Nawaz had sent a message of appreciation to General Bajwa for his announcement not to seek an extension. The sources claimed that Nawaz had also conveyed to the former army chief that his true legacy would be to retire honourably and let the government appoint the new chief as per the Constitution.
In the first week of November, the government was suggested by some elements that it should grant an extension to General Bajwa and have General Sahir appointed as Vice Chief. The suggestion also included the proposal that the prime minister should dissolve the government and let there be an interim government for seven months to stabilise things following which elections should take place.
This was firmly refused,” the government source had told this correspondent, adding that it was also assured by the elements that following the dissolution of the government and National Assembly, Nawaz Sharif’s return would be facilitated. The PMLN leadership was also told that elections would be held much later to enable the PMLN win with a two-thirds majority. All these messages were taken with a lot of anger, the government source claimed. When Nawaz and Shehbaz met in London, they decided not to adhere to any of such suggestions even if the government was removed. During those days of extreme tension, the PMLN’s policy was to avoid confrontation and pass time till it it was for the appointment of a new army chief.
It is yet to be seen if the PMLN top leadership would name the elements who were causing all sorts of tensions and confusions at such a critical time when the government was all set to appoint a new army chief following General Bajwa’s announcement to retire.
Besides the Sharif brothers, Khawaja Asif and Malik Muhammad Khan are believed to be in knowledge of a lot about what happened during those days.