ISLAMABAD: Defence Minister of Pakistan Khawaja Asif has hinted at the possibility of holding general elections before the appointment of a new army chief.
Khwaja Asif disclosed this in an interview with BBC Urdu on Wednesday. He said, “It is possible that we hold elections before the new army chief’s appointment, before November 2022. There will be a caretaker government at that time and it is also possible that the caretaker government is gone and the new government is in power before November.”
Incumbent Chief of Army Staff (COAS) Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa will remain in office till November 29 this year, when his second three-year tenure ends. Gen Bajwa was given an extension by the previous PTI government in 2019.
In response to a question about whether the PML-N-led coalition government could give the incumbent COAS another extension, Asif said Bajwa had already announced that he does not want his tenure to be extended.
The defence minister said he welcomed the announcement because it had “closed the doors of speculation” and noted that the previous army chief, General (retd) Raheel Sharif, too, had not “directly or indirectly demanded an extension”.
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 quoted him as saying.