ISLAMABAD: Defence Minister Khwaja Muhammad Asif said on Wednesday that except for one or two, all appointments of the army, navy and air force chiefs had always been made on merit.
However, he regretted that Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan had made an attempt to politicise the appointment process this time, which was regrettable.
Addressing a news conference along with Finance Minister Miftah Ismail at the PID Centre here, Asif called on the PTI chief to tell when army appointments were not done on merit. “Our last appointment of the current army chief was endorsed by them (PTI),” Kh Asif said, adding that Imran seldom might have praised anyone in the last three years as he did Chief of the Army Staff (COAS) General Qamar Javed Bajwa.
The defence minister alleged that Imran’s confidence in the army chief was so high that he did not chair several important meetings or security briefings himself and left them to Gen Bajwa to preside over. “Now that they no longer have power, every person [of theirs] is attacking our military leadership and deliberately creating doubts and suspicions on the upcoming [army chief] appointment,” he regretted.
Ruling out the possibility of any deviation from the set procedure for appointment of the COAS, he said the process of receiving dossiers possessing information starts almost a month before the appointment date, and then the prime minister (PM) takes the decision in the last 24 to 48 hours after consultation with the people concerned.
“Keeping in view two-time experiences in 2013 and 2016, the appointment of the COAS is done by the prime minister just 24 or 48 hours prior to the last date after consultation with all stakeholders,” Kh Asif said. He was replying to questions about the possibility of granting an extension to the incumbent COAS.
The minister said he could say with certainty that the COAS appointment decision would be made by the PM prior to the Nov 29 deadline after due consultations. He said it was a deliberate attempt on the part of Imran Khan to make the appointment controversial. However, later on, he attempted to give it a new spin saying that he was referring to making appointment on merit. He raised questions and stated that even close associates of Imran Khan had distanced themselves from his new narrative. The minister said that even President Arif Alvi was distancing himself from the statement of Imran Khan. Kh Asif asked whether [Punjab Chief Minister Usman] Buzdar and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (KP) CM were appointed on merit. He said whether BRT Peshawar and Toshakhana were done on merit?
Asif said the government would register only those cases against Imran Khan wherein it would have 100 per cent verified evidence. He said he could vouch under oath that if there would be any doubts, the benefit would be given to Imran Khan.
About the Toshakhana Reference, Kh Asif said the government had sent recommendations and asked Khan to appear before the courts. He said Imran Khan’s corruption was a lot more than what came to the fore in foreign funding case. “We have completed an inquiry with regard to Rs46.468 billion [£180 million],” he said, adding that the former premier’s “corruption is under investigation” and that the matter had gone too far.
He also castigated the PTI government for allegedly failing to investigate various scandals during its tenure such as the sugar and wheat shortages. “They investigated no corruption case on merit. Was this merit? What merit does he speak of?” Asif added.
To another query regarding the perception of increasing popularity of Imran Khan, Kh Asif replied that when Imran Khan was ousted through no confidence motion, PTI’s popularity was at the lowest ebb, and one of the PTI leaders had admitted before him that they could not win more than 16 or 17 seats. Then they bounced back mainly because of increased price-hike. Now the government had overcome the economic mess, and it was hoped that the prices would come down in the coming few months and they would be able to turn the tide in their favour.
Addressing the press conference, Finance Minister Miftah Ismail said how come Imran Khan could talk of merit when he appointed Usman Buzdar and Murad Saeed. He talked about the allegations regarding Farhat Shahzadi — also known as Farah Khan Gogi, a close aide of Imran’s wife Bushra Bibi — and questioned whether her alleged acts were also on merit or in Imran’s knowledge. He said that there were three trustees of his university including Imran Khan, his wife and Farah Gogi. Farah Gogi used her influence for important transfers/ postings in Punjab. Whether those transfers/postings were done on merit, he asked.
Miftah alleged that former Punjab CM Usman Buzdar issued 16 licences of cement plants in the province. “There is a need to investigate how the Ring Road Rawalpindi was re-aligned.” He said misuse of the party funds would be investigated. He said medicine, wheat and sugar scandals were not investigated, and various corruption inquiries in the KP were closed without investigation.
Miftah said the Pak Rupee came under pressure against the US dollar after striking of a deal with the International Monetary (IMF) mainly because of increased pressure of imports. He said the government would have to import $1 billion to $2 billion of cotton. The government had not yet decided to allow imports from India, but if a need arises, the government could consider granting permission for importing cotton and vegetables from the neighbouring country.
He said it was expected the prices of electricity would be reduced in October 2022, after which inflation would start reducing in the country. He said that cotton and sugarcane crops had been damaged in Sindh due to floods. The import demand had gone up, so the exchange rate came under pressure.
When asked about the continuous loadshedding, Miftah said if the electricity requirement was fulfilled by generating it through furnace oil use, per unit price would reach Rs80. He blamed the PTI for increased rate of electricity and stated that they wasted four years and did not bring about any improvement in transmission and distribution losses, and did nothing for improving bills collection.
The minister called on the PTI chief to come to the Press Information Department (PID) and provide simple answers in “yes or no” to three questions: “Did Farah take money for transfers and postings in Punjab, did Imran know about these actions himself and could these acts have been done without his approval and sanction?”
Miftah also claimed he knew the people who had personally told Imran about Buzdar’s alleged corruption.
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