Islamabad May 11 2022: Pakistan’s Defense Minister Khawaja Asif has said in an interview to BBC that the possibility of general elections in the country cannot be ruled out before the appointment of a new Chief of Army Staff this year.
In an exclusive interview with the BBC, he said, “We may hold elections before the appointment of the army chief. Before November Then there will be a caretaker government. It is possible that the caretaker government will leave before November and a new government will come.
Asked whether the tenure of Army Chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa could be extended before the caretaker government, the Defense Minister said that General Bajwa himself had announced that he did not want to extend his tenure.
Defense Minister Khawaja Asif said, “I welcome this announcement as it has closed the door to speculation. Earlier, General Raheel Sharif had never directly or indirectly demanded extension of his tenure.
‘Army chief appointment procedure should now be institutionalized’
Khawaja Asif also said that the procedure for appointment of army chief in the country should now be ‘institutionalized’ as is done in the judiciary. He further said that this process should be institutionalized as is the case in the judiciary and there is no speculation about it. I know who will be the Chief Justice in 2028.
He further said that it was my personal opinion that instead of discussing the issue of appointment of Army Chief, the procedure should be on 100% merit. This is a big and very important issue, it should not be the subject of political debate at all.
The appointment of the army chief was the reason for the change of government?
The Federal Minister of Defense also spoke during the interview on the impression that the appointment of a new Army Chief was the main issue which led to the change of Imran Khan’s government.
Criticizing the former prime minister, he said, “Imran Khan wanted to do his own thing on the appointment of the next army chief. He wanted to ensure that his political interests and the continuity of his rule were protected.
So was all this activity done to stop this ‘personal will’? On this Khawaja Asif says that it is not so. It is up to the Prime Minister to choose one of the names sent by the Army.
Defense Minister Khawaja Asif said that two Army Chiefs were appointed in 2013 and again in 2016. And the then Prime Minister made decisions on the basis of merit and fully respected the recommendations of the Army.
Nawaz Sharif did not know General Raheel Sharif. At the time of General Qamar Javed Bajwa’s appointment, the Prime Minister knew him because he was commanding the Rawalpindi Corps. But both times the institution’s proposal was respected. And in the same circle, both heads were appointed. The same will be done on merit.
If General Faiz Hameed’s name is included in the list, it will be considered.
On the question of whether PML-N has been making allegations against Lt. Gen. Faiz Hameed, whether he can be appointed as the Army Chief, Khawaja Asif said, Will be considered All the names that will be in this list will be considered.
“If the defense minister brings the names of five officers to the prime minister and suggests the name of Army (Lieutenant) General Faiz Hameed among them, then I don’t think the defense ministry or the prime minister has to say that,” he said. It is possible to send three or eight names instead of five.
It should be noted that PML-N leaders, especially Maryam Nawaz, have been accusing Lieutenant General Faiz Hameed of interfering in politics and supporting Imran Khan’s government. He reiterated this allegation during a meeting last week.
When Khawaja Asif was asked about the same statement of PML-N, he said, “It is unfortunate that our politics has been dragged into this thing or red lines have been mixed in our past experiences.” But what has happened in the last month gives us the opportunity to start a new chapter and adhere to the limits set by the constitution, that is the survival of Pakistan.
“The army has a sanctity and it should not be a topic of discussion in the public domain and they say at the party level not to be named,” he added.
It may be recalled that Lieutenant General Faiz Hameed is currently in charge of the XI Corps, whereas before that he was the head of Pakistan’s ISI. During his two terms in the ISI, his name was the subject of controversy and he was considered a controversial figure, especially by the PML-N leaders.
He was considered close to former Prime Minister Imran Khan and Imran Khan had refused to issue a notification on the occasion of his transfer from ISI. This proved to be the first public debate between the GHQ and the Prime Minister’s House during Imran Khan’s tenure.
Imran Khan issued a notification of his appointment a few weeks later, but the rift between the military leadership and Imran Khan continued to grow.
Is the Muslim League losing the war of words against Imran Khan?
Talking about the rise in popularity of former PM Imran Khan after the success of the no-confidence motion and the difficulties faced by the PML-N in publicly contesting him, Khawaja Asif said that he believed that in this war of words There is no possibility of defeat of his party.
“It won’t take long and the situation will stabilize,” he says.
According to Khawaja Asif, he admits that Imran Khan is a ‘popular people’s leader’ but he has nothing to show for it.
“That is why they are hiding their failure behind these two or three statements which unfortunately become popular,” he said. At the same time, they are playing on the wicket of religion and repeating anti-American rhetoric.
The senior PML-N leader said that Imran Khan was introduced by the Establishment as an alternative to traditional politicians.
Imran Khan was gradually built up to bring in a new man with whom the establishment could be more comfortable. The love for a traditional politician was sometimes more and sometimes less. So he thought that now this is a new man, to bring freshness in politics. What happened next is in front of everyone. This experiment was done and it harmed the country. Today, it does not suit Imran Khan for institutions to become neutral. He wants to be in power and the institutions to provide him with crutches.
Khawaja Asif also said that the anti-establishment statement made by Imran Khan was ‘shameful’.
“In the last four years, everything has revolved around one person,” he said. The economy, foreign policy initiatives or inter-agency relations were all shaped by their aspirations. In other words, if the institutions work as subordinates, then it is fine for Imran Khan. But Imran Khan is not happy if the institutions work within their constitutional ambit. Be it the judiciary, the army, the parliament or the media. I think Imran Khan’s anti-military rhetoric will not last long and will end on its own.
It is our duty to defend the army and we will’
Imran Khan is repeatedly targeting the military leadership without naming them, saying that they should not be ‘neutral’ and should support Imran Khan. On the other hand, the military has repeatedly said during the political situation that has arisen in the last two months that the armed forces should not be dragged into political affairs.
However, several military circles also believe that the PML-N government has failed to stop the campaign against the army.
Talking about this, Khawaja Asif says that he agrees with the statement of the military spokesman that the army cannot defend itself on public platforms.
“I think it is true that the military cannot defend itself in public, on political platforms, in parliament and in the media because the institution has its own sanctity. And again and again such statements compromise this sanctity and respect. I think there should be some atmosphere of mystery and respect for the army.
He says he, as a political worker and defense minister, is defending the establishment against the current military and anti-judicial rhetoric, and his government will do the same.
“We will definitely defend the neutral role of the establishment,” he said. If the judiciary and the army cannot speak for themselves, then those of us who can speak legally and constitutionally will defend these institutions. Anyone who violates the constitution, and the constitutional institutions that are doing their duty according to the constitution, and if someone tells them that those who are neutral are ‘animals’, then it is my constitutional duty that I Let me answer. ‘
Talking about the legal action against former Prime Minister Imran Khan on this issue, he said that he was in favor of such action and implementation of law in such cases, however, he was not in favor of giving anyone a chance to become a political martyr.