ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan army chief should be a competent person with a “flawless” reputation, ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) party leader Maryam Nawaz said on Thursday, as a debate was reignited this week on the appointment of arguably the country’s most powerful official.
Current army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa is scheduled to retire in November this year. The military’s spokesperson Major General Babar Iftikhar announced last month that Bajwa, who is already on an extension, would not seek another extension or accept one if offered by the government.
On Wednesday, senior PML-N leader and Defence Minister Khawaja Muhammad Asif renewed debate on the army chief’s appointment when he said in an interview that if the army recommended the name of Peshawar corps commander Lt Gen Faiz Hameed as a candidate for the chief’s post, the government would consider it.
The PML-N has been openly critical of Lt Gen Faiz Hameed, who served as the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) chief from June 16, 2019, to Oct 19, 2021,. Hameed is considered close to ex-Prime Minister Imran Khan, who was ousted by the PML-N as part of a joint opposition no-confidence vote in parliament.
“Pakistan’s army chief should be a person who should be free of any criticism, doubts, whose reputation should be flawless,” Nawaz told reporters in Islamabad when asked about the defence minister’s remarks about Hameed.
“This is best for the people of Pakistan, the 220 million people and for the armed forces as well,” she added. “A competent person, one who is free of any stains, should become the chief of the army so that the people salute him.”
In a veiled reference to Hameed during a rally in Attock last week, Nawaz had said former PM Khan had used the ex-spy chief to gather support against the PML-N and other opposition parties.
The Pakistan military denies it interferes in politics, though it has ruled Pakistan for almost half its history.
Addressing a rally last week in Fateh Jang, Maryam had criticised Gen Hameed while referring to Imran Khan’s recent podcast appearance where he had said the intelligence chief was the “eyes and ears” of the government.
The PML-N leader had said: “We know that he wasn’t your eyes and ears [rather] he was your hands through which you throttled your political opponents.”
In her media talk today, she said that the army was a respectable institution for the country and its people. “The nation looks at the army for the unity and security of Pakistan. So it is important that the army chief is a person who is worthy and stainless so that people salute the Pakistan Army.”
Maryam added that it was a “good thing” that the military had decided to stay away from politics and limit itself to its constitutional role, something politicians had struggle for.
“But there’s only one man who has a problem with this … who has gotten used to cheating, who doesn’t have feet of his own and needs support,” she said. “And it suits him to drag institutions into politics and make them controversial. It’s only one man and his name is Imran Khan.”
‘Elections have to happen’
Maryam also asserted that elections had to happen and they were the solution to the crisis.
She said that a short-term coalition government could not make big decisions. “Nawaz Sharif inherited Pakistan in a bad shape but eventually things got better in two to three years. Unfortunately, this interim setup cannot do it.”
“I just want people not to get lured [into backing the opposition] and I want them to vote for Nawaz Sharif whenever elections are held,” the PML-N leader said.