ISLAMABAD: As the year and months come near the retirement of Pakistan Army Chief, speculations and related comments are started in media within the country. Present COAS Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa is due to retire on 28th November and Prime Minister Imran Khan on Thursday said he had so far not thought about extension in the tenure of Chief of the Army Staff Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa.
“The current year has just started and November is far away. He enjoyed unprecedented relationship with the military leadership then why there is worry about extension in the tenure of the army chief,” the prime minister said at a one-on-one meeting with Dunya TV Islamabad Bureau Chief Khawar Ghumman.
“Now the year has just started, November is too far away. What is the problem, we will decide when the time comes,” remarked Imran Khan.
In view of the “regional security environment,” PM Iran had on August 19, 2019 approved an extension in the tenure of COAS Gen Qamar for another three years. The incumbent army chief was elevated to the position by former prime minister Nawaz Sharif in November 2016. Then, the Senate on January 8, 2020, approved a law that allowed the government to extend the term of the three services chiefs and the chairman of the joint chief of staff committee after the National Assembly passed such bills.
Two days before on Wednesday, Inter-Services Public Relations Director General Maj Gen Babar Iftikhar, answering a related question at a press conference, had said it wouldn’t be “befitting” for him to comment on “speculation” regarding the extension of the tenure of the army chief.
He was also asked about the state of civil-military relations, to which he responded that there were “no issues”. “The armed forces are subservient to the government and work according to their directives. There is nothing more to it.”
He also urged the media to keep the “establishment” out of politics. “There are more issues to discuss in this country, such as health and education […] please keep us out of it.”
Tenure of Gen Bajwa
General Qamar Javed Bajwa will remain as the Pakistan Army chief until November 28, 2022, according to a notification by the Ministry of Defence. The notification was issued on January 28 after the country’s Parliament passed a law to settle the issue of the extension of army chief’s tenure.
It said that the new tenure of army chief will be for an additional tenure of three years, effective from November 29, 2019 to November 28, 2022.
Gen Bajwa, believed a close confidant of Khan, was to retire on November 29 last year at the end of his three-year original term but Prime Minister Imran Khan gave the 59-year-old Army chief another extension of same length citing regional security situation through a notification on August 19.
However, the Supreme Court on November 28 suspended the government order, observing that there is no law to give extension to the Army chief’s tenure. But the apex court granted a six-month extension to Gen Bajwa after being assured by the government that Parliament will pass a legislation on the extension/reappointment of an army chief within six months.
The government after initial hesitation secured the support of the main Opposition parties and introduced three bills in the National Assembly to extend the retirement age from 60 to 64 years for the chiefs of army, navy and air force, and the chairman of the joint chief of staff committee.
Later the government and the Opposition joined hands to amend the Army Act of 1952 to appoint and re-appoint an army chief and also extend his services.
During the press talk on Thursday, Prime Minister Imran Khan said when asked — in the context of rumours of a possible deal between the PML-N and military to send his government packing — whether he felt threatened from any quarters, the PM said he personally was not under any kind of pressure. He added that he enjoyed the support of government allies and expressed the confidence that his government would complete its mandated five years.
Talking about his party’s quest for accountability, the PM said major opposition figures had not yet been tried on corruption charges and still roamed free because of weak prosecution.
He said the National Accountability Bureau would take cases before the court but they were not being prosecuted.
He admitted that not proceeding against opposition leaders despite there being evidence of corruption against them could be termed his government’s greatest shortcoming, but appeared hopeful that Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz leader Shehbaz Sharif would not escape punishment in the fresh case brought against him by the Federal Investigation Agency.
PTI’s defeat in KPK
He termed PTI’s defeat in the recent local government elections in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa “a big loss”, and when asked how the PTI planned to ensure electoral success in local government elections in Punjab, the prime minister reposed confidence in Chief Minister Punjab Usman Buzdar and hoped that his party would have a better showing when polls were held in Punjab.
“Personally, I have no threat in any way from the opposition. All allies are with us and we will complete our five-year term,” he responded while showing no concerns over the opposition’s stand of tabling a no-confidence motion against him in the National Assembly.
Moreover, the premier reportedly added that the ruling party’s “biggest failure” was not completing the accountability process as it had promised before elections.
He lamented that people were being released despite evidence against them. But PM Imran reportedly added, he was hopeful of the ongoing Federal Investigation Agency’s investigation against Shehbaz Sharif. “As per the recovered evidence, I don’t think Shehbaz can get away,” he added.
On a query related to the local government elections, the premier admitted that the party suffered a lot after the defeat in the first phase of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s LG polls. However, he was hopeful that PTI would but up a better performance in the Punjab LG elections.
He reportedly added that Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar was performing well but “not getting any media projection.”
Meeting on fertiliser issue
Minister Imran Khan has directed the authorities concerned to continue legal action against those involved in hoarding and illegal profiteering.
He was chairing a meeting in Islamabad to review the current stocks and prices of fertilizers. It was informed that amendments are being made in the relevant laws against hoarding and profiteering, and those providing information about such elements will be rewarded on the basis of goods confiscated.