Defence Minister Khawaja Asif on Wednesday said that “barring one or two exceptions”, all prior appointments in the military forces were on merit.
Addressing a press conference in Islamabad with Finance Minister Miftah Ismail, he said the recommendations for the heads of the three military divisions — army, navy and airforce — were sent to the prime minister who made the decision after consultation with others.
On PTI chief Imran Khan’s comments at his Faisalabad rally on Sunday, regarding the appointment of the upcoming army chief which generated controversy, Asif said the former prime minister had given a “new meaning” to his comments in Tuesday’s Peshawar rally.
“This is done as part of a well-considered strategy that first you attack and make institutions controversial and see the reaction and then say ‘I talked about merit’.”
Asif addressed the PTI chief’s comments and said the situation was such for the PTI that even Imran’s confidantes remained mum, made excuses or avoided the question when they were asked for their opinion on their leader’s comments.
The defence minister 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)” Asif said, adding that Imran seldom might have praised anyone in the last three years as he did Chief of Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa.
He alleged that Imran’s confidence in the army chief was so high that he did not chair several important political 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 doubt and suspicion for the upcoming [army chief] appointment.”
Asif said that even if Imran’s point about merit was considered, he questioned if appointments made under the PTI’s tenure of former Punjab chief minister Usman Buzdar and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Chief Minister Mahmood Khan were on merit or not.
The defence minister also raised a laundry list of alleged corruption cases regarding the PTI government, such as the Peshawar BRT inquiry, Toshakhana reference, legalising an amount to Bahria Town and others, and questioned whether merit was considered in those matters as well.
He also castigated the PTI regime 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. He claimed that people within the PTI were abandoning Imran and no one was defending him for his recent comments.
Meanwhile, Ismail talked about the allegations regarding Farhat Shahzadi — also known as Farah Khan and 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 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?”