ISLAMABAD: Defence Minister Khawaja Asif said on Wednesday that prospects of general elections in the country before the appointment of a new army chief this year could not be ruled out.
In an interview to BBC, the federal minister said there was also a possibility of a new government taking office prior to the appointment of army chief, which is due in November.
“The current army chief, Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa, has already made it clear that he is not interested in an extension of his tenure,” Khawaja Asif said.
“I welcome this statement because it has put to rest all speculations being made in this regard. Before that, Gen Raheel Sharif too had not sought any extension in his tenure, either directly or indirectly.”
The senior leader of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) was of the opinion that like in the case of judiciary, it was time for institutionalising the appointment of army chief.
“If this arrangement is made, there will be no room for rumours as it will be known beforehand as to who is going to become the next chief. I know who will take oath as the chief justice of Pakistan in 2028,” he said.
Instead of speculating as to who would be the next army chief, efforts should be made to ensure that only deserving generals are appointed to the position.
When asked whether differences between former prime minister Imran Khan and the Pakistan Army over appointment to a senior post in the army had led to the toppling of the coalition government led by the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, the defence minister said the PTI chairman wanted to secure his political interests through the appointment of the new chief of army staff (COAS).
When the BBC correspondent asked him whether that was what had led to the ouster of the previous government, Khawaja Asif replied, “No, it is up to the prime minister to select the man for the position from amongst the names of different candidates sent to him.”
Referring to the two appointments made in 2013 and 2016, he claimed the-then prime minister, Nawaz Sharif, had followed the principle of merit as he also kept in mind the recommendations made by the army before selecting a person for the post.