Imran Khan’s controversial remarks regarding the appointment of new Army chief gathered criticism from his political opponents and state institutions including Islamabad High Court and the ISPR.
“Pakistan Army is aghast at the defamatory and uncalled for statement about the senior leadership of Pakistan Army by Chairman PTI during a political rally at Faisalabad”, a press release issued by the ISPR on Monday stated. ISPR termed the statement as a regrettable attempt “to discredit and undermine senior leadership of Pakistan Army”.
Furthermore, the press release read that the controversial statement regarding the senior leadership of Pakistan Army comes at a time when “the institution is laying lives for the security and safety of the people of Pakistan every day”. Pakistan Army is the backbone of defense and security of Pakistan in the face of multiple threats including internal and external security challenges and natural calamities. Pakistan Army has been at the forefront of the flood-relief operations being carried out throughout Pakistan. There is no denying that the services and sacrifices of Pakistan Army are invaluable. Former Prime Minister Imran Khan has also often said that Pakistan Army is even more important than his life, and he has always held the sacrifices of Pakistan Army in high regard.
PTI and @ImranKhanPTI have always fully appreciated the professionalism and sacrifices of the army personnel. The emphasis on upholding the principle of merit is consistent with the desire to protect the professionalism of the force which provides security to the nation.
— Asad Umar (@Asad_Umar) September 5, 2022
PTI Chairman, while addressing the political rally in Faisalabad on Sunday, remarked that the incumbent coalition government was delaying fresh elections so that they can appoint an Army Chief of their choosing. Retorting this claim, the statement from ISPR read; “senior politicians trying to stir controversies on appointment of COAS of Pakistan Army, the procedure for which is well defined in the constitution, is most unfortunate and disappointing”. “Politicizing the senior leadership of Pakistan Army and scandalizing the process of selection of COAS is neither in the interest of the state of Pakistan nor of the institution” the press release from ISPR reads.
It must be noted here that current Chief of Army Staff General Qamer Javed Bajwa is due to retire from the post in November this year. According to the section 3 of Article 243 of the Constitution of Pakistan, the president appoints the services chiefs on the recommendation of the prime minister. Hence, constitutionally it is the prerogative of the Prime Minister to appoint the new Army Chief.
The detailed process of the appointment is not defined in the constitution, however, traditionally the GHQ (General Head Quarters) sends a short list of four to five senior-most lieutenant generals along with their personal files to the Ministry of Defense which then forwards it to the Prime Minister for consideration. The appointment of, and 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”, schedule V-A of the Rules of Business elaborates.
It is interesting to note here that since 1972, five out of the ten Army Chiefs have been appointed by Nawaz Sharif—the elder brother of the incumbent Prime Minister. Nawaz Sharif has often been accused of favoritism in the selection process, which has never seemed to favor him though.
According to a report by DAWN, Lt. Gen Asim Munir, Lt-Gen Sahir Shamshad Mirza, Lt-Gen Azhar Abbas, Lt-Gen Nauman Mehmood, Lt-Gen Faiz Hamid, and Lt-Gen Mohammad Amir are the six candidates for the post of new Army Chief.
The appointment of the new Army Chief will be one of the most important decisions of the incumbent government and apparently Imran Khan believes that the appointment will be based on favoritism. His remarks in question are a manifestation of this apprehension.
While the government and institutions condemned the controversial remarks of Chairman PTI Imran Khan, senior leaders of PTI including Asad Umar, Fawad Chaudhry and Shireen Mazari defended and clarified Imran Khan’s remarks he made at a public gathering in Faisalabad, by providing the context.
Asad Umar wrote on twitter that the statement of Imran Khan was not intended “to cause harm to the reputation of the institution or its senior leadership”.
The context of statement given by Chairman Imran Khan yesterday regarding appointment of COAS has already been clarified earlier. There was never an intent to cause harm to the reputation of the institution or its senior leadership.
— Asad Umar (@Asad_Umar) September 5, 2022
Meanwhile, Fawad Chaudhry justified the statement saying that Imran Khan called Nawaz Shairf and Asif Zardari a security risk for Pakistan as all their assets are abroad, and it is not right to link his statement with Pakistan Army.
عمران خان نے نواز شریف اور آصف زرداری کو ڈان لیکن اور میمو گیٹ کے تناظر میں سیکیورٹی رسک کہا ہے ان کی جائیدادیں ، بچے تمام تر مفادات ملک سے باہر ہیں لہذا اس بیان کو فوج یا فوج کی قیادت سے جوڑنا درست نہیں https://t.co/JF58zsw1px
— Ch Fawad Hussain (@fawadchaudhry) September 5, 2022
Meanwhile, Shireen Mazari tweeted that the statement of Imran Khan has been misunderstood despite clarifications.
Sadly, the press statement is of concern bec it seems to have misunderstood what IK said despite clarifications; & at a time when PDM is deliberately distorting IK statement to target him. At no point in Fsbd speech did IK criticise mly or its leadership. https://t.co/EImUPz0Za4
— Shireen Mazari (@ShireenMazari1) September 5, 2022