Process to appoint army chief, CJCSC has begun, confirms Khawaja Asif

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  • Defence minister says process will be completed by Nov 25.
  • Khawaja Asif says there’s no deadlock over appointment of COAS.
  • Minister says PML-N consulting allies over appointment.

ISLAMABAD, NOV 21: Minister for Defence Khawaja Asif announced on Monday that the process of appointing the army chief and the chairman joint chiefs of staff committee (CJCSC) had begun.

“The process of appointing [officials] to Pakistan Army’s highest positions has started today. God willing, the appointments will be made soon as per the constitutional requirements,” the minister said in a tweet.

Speaking to the media in Islamabad separately after a meeting with Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, Asif ruled out reports of a deadlock over the name of the new army chief.

The defence minister said the PML-N was consulting its allies over the appointment to the coveted post, and there was no pressure on the government regarding the army chief’s appointment.

The senior minister also said the process of appointing the army chief would be completed by November 25, and the summary would be moved within a day or two.

“Once we receive the summary, we will discuss the names, which will probably be five or six senior-most officers,” Asif added.

He added that the summary had not yet reached the PM’s Office.

Warning to president

Once the prime minister approves the names, he sends the summary to the president for ratification. It is then again sent back to the premier’s office for an official announcement.

In a press conference last week, the PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari made it clear that the country would only accept the appointment of COAS made by the prime minister, who is the only one constitutionally empowered to do so.

He said if President Dr Arif Alvi blocks the PM’s summary regarding the COAS appointment, it would need to be seen how he decides to go down in history, whether by upholding the Constitution or violating it and showing loyalty to his friend, in which case he will suffer the consequences.

“If he opts to block the PM’s summary, it will have consequences,” he said. However, PTI stresses that the president will work in line with the law and not create hurdles in the process.

While addressing journalists, PTI Vice President Shah Mehmood Qureshi said that President Alvi will not stop the summary for the appointment of a new army chief.

The consultations

As the days got closer to Gen Bajwa’s retirement, before consulting the ruling partners on the crucial appointment, PM Shehbaz approached his brother, PML-N supremo Nawaz Sharif regarding the decision. In a meeting in London in early November, both the leaders agreed to appoint the military’s senior-most officer as the next army chief.

As he touched down in Pakistan after his London visit last week, the prime minister fell sick, but he started consultations with the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) leaders for the coveted slot.

The allied parties had fully mandated the premier for making the appointment as per set procedures and traditions, sources told Online news agency.

According to them, PDM chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman telephoned the prime minister to inquire about his health. During the telephone conversation, the two leaders exchanged views on the situation in the country and the appointment of the new army chief.

Sources said Fazl threw his weight behind PM Shehbaz, saying he should appoint the new army chief as per the set procedure.

They said a majority of the ruling coalition leaders termed the army chief’s appointment an administrative and discretionary power of the prime minister.

PPP and JUI-F leadership fully authorised PM Shehbaz Sharif to appoint the new army chief as per his wishes.