‘Elections before COAS appointment cannot be ruled out’

Defence Minister and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) stalwart Khawaja Asif has said that it cannot be ruled out that the government agrees to go to elections before the appointment of the new army chief, who will be replacing the incumbent chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa in November

The federal minister made these remarks in an interview published on BBC Urdu website on Wednesday.

Asif said it was also possible that by the time the appointment of the new chief is made, the new government would have already replaced the caretaker set-up after the election.

Replying to a question about the extension to the army chief, Asif said Gen Bajwa has already made it clear that he would not seek another extension.

It may be noted here that the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government led by Imran Khan had granted a three-year extension to the COAS in 2019. Gen Bajwa is set to retire on November 29 this year.

Read No change in army’s approach despite huge PTI protests: analysts

In response to another question about whether Imran’s government was sent packing over the COAS appointment issue, the minister said Imran wanted to have his own way over the appointment of the new chief to “ensure his political interest and prolong his tenure”.

However, he rejected the impression that the PTI chief was removed because of this issue. “It is the prerogative of the prime minister to appoint the army chief,” he added.

Asif said the process for the appointment of the army chief needed to be “institutionalised” just like the judiciary. “There is no speculation about [a chief justice]. I know who will become the chief justice in 2028.”

He opined that the appointment of the COAS needed to be made on “merit” to discourage “political debate” on such an “important issue”.

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