ISLAMABAD: Defence Minister Khawaja Muhammad Asif Wednesday said the process to appoint the new army chief will start by the end of the current month or the beginning of the next month in line with the law and the constitution.
Anyone from among the five nominated generals could be appointed as the next chief of army staff, he said while addressing a press conference here. Asif said it was the prime minister’s discretion to pick any of the five names forwarded by the defence ministry.
He said in the past, names other than the five suggested had also been chosen for the military chief’s position. Speaking on the appointment of the army chief on the basis of seniority, the defence minister said: “All three-star generals are eligible for this.”
Answering a question, he said the next general elections will be held as per schedule. He agreed to a questioner that General Bajwa while addressing a ceremony in the United States had once again clarified that he would leave the office on completion of his tenure.
He pointed out that former prime minister Nawaz Sharif had set the tradition that the outgoing army chief should get sufficient time before retirement to interact with the officers and jawans by visiting different corps and formations.
He said nobody could be allowed to malign the armed forces adding that as defence minister, it was also his duty to defend the institution against any campaign. He said the whole nation praised and stood by the army for staying neutral and maintained that the custodians of the country’s geographical boundaries were not there to protect any thief.
Asif recalled that it had been their struggle for the last four years that the institutions should stay neutral but Imran Khan was questioning their neutrality. He pointed out that a cipher was a secret document linked with the country’s sensitive matters and diplomatic relations with other countries but Imran violated the Official Secret Act and his oath as prime minister.
“By making cipher public and violating the Official Secret Act, Imran proved that he was not worthy of being prime minister,” Asif said, adding that Imran was asking the army to give up its neutrality and violate the Constitution. He alleged that Imran Khan accompanied by President Alvi went to apologize for what he had said against the institution.
“He is used to touching the feet and apologizing in the night and hurling threats in public meetings,” the minister said. Asif regretted that in his recent public meeting, Imran once again spoke against the army and the establishment adding that he was doing so because he knew what was going to happen in November.
He said Imran wanted to complete his five-year tenure and get another five years but he lost his senses after failing to do so. “We will name the new army chief but let Imran Khan writhe in agony for few more days,” he said.
The minister maintained that Imran Khan will have to face the law for violating the Official Secret Act and the government will deal him with an iron hand. “He will certainly come to senses once he lands in the jail,” the minister said.
Asif said the audio leaks had also exposed the forgery and double-standard of Imran and he should be ashamed of it. The minister said the armed forces and the nation were active in flood relief activities but Imran continued to address public meetings when flood was playing havoc in various parts of the country.
Meanwhile, Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Qamar Javed Bajwa says the armed forces have distanced themselves from politics and want to stay out of it in future as well. The statement came during the army chief’s address in a luncheon at the Pakistan embassy in Washington.
Gen Bajwa also reiterated his resolve to leave after the completion of his term as the army chief this November. “There could be no diplomacy without a strong economy,” said the army chief adding that the nation could not achieve its targets without a strong economy.
“Restoring the ailing economy of the country should be the priority of every stakeholder of the society,” Gen Bajwa said, reports Geo News. The COAS is currently on a visit to the United States, where he called on Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin, National Security Adviser Jacob Sullivan, and Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman.
Matters of mutual interest, regional security situation and bilateral cooperation in various fields came under discussion, the ISPR said. General Bajwa also told the US officials that assistance from Pakistan’s global partners was vital for the “rescue and rehabilitation” of flood victims. He also thanked the US officials for their support for the flood relief in Pakistan.
Both sides agreed that Pakistan and the US had a long history of bilateral cooperation and both countries shall continue to improve their economic and trade ties apart from looking for investment avenues.
General Bajwa also offered heartfelt condolence on the deaths and devastation in the US state of Florida due to Hurricane Ian, the statement said. Pakistan fully understands the loss and pain of families as the country itself is facing drastic effects of climate change, added the statement.
“Both sides had convergence on major international issues, including Afghanistan and need for cooperation to avoid humanitarian crisis and improving peace and stability in the region,” the statement said.
The US department of defence, in a readout, simply said that Austin’s meeting with the army chief was held “during the 75th anniversary of relations between the United States and Pakistan”.
“This long-standing partnership continues today with discussions focused on opportunities to address key mutual defense interests,” said readout. General Bajwa held these scheduled meetings with senior officials of the Biden administration.
The army chief arrived in the US on September 30 and met with the UN officials in New York. General Bajwa is heading a delegation that will stay in the US for another couple of days, diplomatic sources said, terming the visit an important one that portrayed “robust relations” between the two countries.
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