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Khawaja Asif hints at election before new COAS’s appointment

The defence minister appreciates Gen. Bajwa's announcement regarding no interest in another extension, adding that speculations regarding the matter should end now.

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Defence Minister Khawaja Asif has said there’s a possibility of holding general elections before the appointment of a new army general in November.

During an interview with BBC Urdu, the federal minister said, “It is possible that we hold elections before the [new] army chief’s appointment, before November. There will be a caretaker government at that time. It is also possible that the caretaker government is gone and the new government is [in power] before November.”

“Imran Khan wanted to do things his own way on the matter of the new army chief’s appointment. He wanted to ensure the protection of his political interests and the continuity of his rule,” he said.

In response to whether the PML-N-led coalition government could give the incumbent COAS another extension, Asif said Bajwa had already announced that he did not want his tenure to be extended.

Read more: Can hold elections in the next four months: ECP

“I welcome his decision as it has closed the door on speculations,” he said, adding that the former army chief General (retd) Raheel Sharif, too, had never “directly or indirectly demanded an extension.”

He was then asked whether the entire process for Imran’s removal was because of the former premier’s “desire to do things his way.” Denying that this was the case, Asif said it was the prime minister’s prerogative to choose who he wanted from the list of names recommended to him by the army.

Asif said he believed the process for appointing an army chief should be “institutionalised,” similar to the judiciary. “There is no speculation about [a chief justice]. I know who will become the chief justice in 2028.”

“In my personal opinion, instead of discussing the matter of the army chief’s appointment, the process should 100 per cent be based on merit. This is a big and very important issue, it should never be the subject of political debate,” BBC Urdu reported.

Read more: Gen Bajwa Extension Case: Suo Motu or Petition?

Asif further mentioned that if Lieutenant General Faiz Hameed’s name were on the seniority list, the coalition government would consider him for the post. “All names present on the seniority list will be considered,” he asserted.

Referring to the political upheaval last month in the wake of the no-confidence motion against Imran Khan and the Supreme Court’s verdict, the defence minister said: “What happened last month gave us [the coalition government] the opportunity to start afresh”.
It should be noted that Gen Bajwa was given an extension by the previous PTI government in 2019.