New Chief of Army Staff why this controversy? | By Tariq Aqil


New Chief of Army Staff why this controversy?

THE serving Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Qamar Javed Bajwa will retire from active service by the end of November 2022.

The General’s tenure was to be for three years but he was given an extension in service for three years more by the then Prime Minister Imran Khan in 2019.

The ISPR has rejected all rumours that the general will be given another extension and it is now very clear that he will hang up his gloves in November.

In the present political scenario with the coalition government faced with some extremely tough economic and political challenges the decision for the appointment of the new COAS will certainly be one of the toughest tasks for it.

The Prime Minister is bound to choose between the four candidates recommended by the military establishment.

According to Article 243 (3) of the Constitution of Pakistan, the President appoints the Services Chiefs on the recommendation of the Prime Minister.

Schedule V-A of the Rules of Business, which elaborates the cases to be presented to the prime minister for his approval states that “the appointment of, an above the rank of, Lieutenant General in the army and equivalent ranks in the other Defence Services will be made by the Prime Minister in consultation with the President”.

Closed door discussions on this vital appointment have already started and a final decision could possibly be reached by the end of September.

According to the tradition, the GHQ sends a list of four or five senior most Generals with service record, to the Ministry of Defence to be forwarded to the office of the Prime Minister to recommend one of them best suited for the job.

This appointment is now nothing short of a nightmare for PML(N) led coalition government as they have suffered the consequences in the past due to military take overs.

This time senior most Lt Generals in the army happen to be Lt Gen Asim Munir, Lt Gen Sahir Shamshad Mirza, Lt Gen Azhar Abbas, Lt Gen Nauman Mehmood, Lt Gen Faiz Hamid and Lt Gen Mohammed Amir.

According to rules one of these officers on the basis of seniority and performance will be selected for prestigious and most powerful job in the country.

In accordance with past traditions Imran Khan’s latest pearls of wisdom on the appointment of the new COAS have generated a new debate and resulted in an intense reaction from both the military and political leadership of the country.

In a recent speech at his public meeting he blamed the ruling coalition that they were “afraid that if a strong and patriotic army chief is appointed then he would ask them about their looted wealth “This irresponsible and uncalled for statement from the former PM was immediately rebuffed by the army spokesman as this was seen as an attempt to discredit and undermine the senior most leadership of the Pakistan army.

This latest salvo fired by the proponent of the Riasat-i-Madina at the Federal Government missed the target because he along with accusing the government of trying to appoint an army chief of their own choice but also brought into question patriotism and integrity of the new chief to be appointed or questioned the integrity of the entire military high command, thus making the future army leadership extremely controversial.

The irresponsible statements of the PTI chief have drawn a very strong reaction from the army high command.

They view this sort of statement as an attempt to politicize and scandalize the process of selection in the army especially at a time when the appointment of the new chief is around the corner.

Imran Khan is treading on thin ice such off the cuff remarks and thoughtless statements are nothing but pressure tactics to win back the support of the military establishment.

With the passage of time Mr Khan’s attitude and behaviour is becoming increasingly and dangerously aggressive, and there appears to be a sense of frustration because he has failed in his attempt to get early elections.

He should also remember that his crude attempts to divide the rank and file of the army could also result in wrapping up the entire political and democratic process in the country.

Sense of insecurity and despair seems to have increased manifold in Imran Khan.

The arrest of his Chief of Staff on sedition charges and the uncalled for ban on the telecast of his live speeches seems to have pushed him to resorting to reckless and irresponsible behavior.

His latest anti-establishment stance is due to the fear of being disqualified from active politics as he is now facing the multiple threats of legal cases ranging from contempt of court, terrorism and illegal funding and he feels that the noose is tightening around his neck.

It may not be possible for the establishment to remove a popular leader from the scene but Mr Khan own irresponsible attitude and reckless behaviour could derail his efforts to return to power in the next elections.

Ironically General Bajwa was given extension by Imran Khan and he enjoined the support of the establishment during his four years rule.

For the appointment of COAS any decision taken on political grounds will harm the institution and the political process.

Political parties should focus entirely on strengthening the democratic institutions in the country instead of looking for a favourite General and asking for military’s support.

—The writer is Professor of History, based in Islamabad.


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