Pakistan Reader# 408, 19 November 2022
On 19 November, Defense Minister Khawaja Asif announced that the process for the appointment of the new Chief of Army Staff (COAS) would begin on 21 November, but was met with scepticism when Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah said that the new army chief would be “announced in the next couple of days.” The conflicting nature of the two statements led to speculations that the government is under pressing stress, where officials have mentioned consultations taking place under “closed doors” to reach a common consensus. This comes as the appointment of the army chief is considered by all stakeholders in the government, although the decision lies in the hands of the Prime Minister. Finance Minister Ishaq Dar met with President Arif Alvi on 18 November, which was considered an important move in summarizing the army chief’s appointment. According to sources, the meeting might be scrutinized by the President. The president assured of “no mischief” in his decisions, and that the two of them discussed matters of finance and economy. The meeting, however, also entailed summaries containing eligible candidates for the posts of the army chief and chairman joint chiefs. The President said, “I do not have the legal authority to stop the prime minister’s advice; I have never interfered in the state affairs.”
What did other leaders say?
Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah said:
“..I believe the prime minister has completed this process (of consultation about the army chief appointment) and will bring it to paper, today or tomorrow or the next two days, [it] takes no time.”
On 18 November, Imran Khan said Nawaz Sharif wanted to appoint the COAS according to his “political agenda” and claimed the next army chief would “disqualify” him from politics. Further, he held that the government’s intention to amend the Pakistan Army Act (PAA) would be disputed by the senior judiciary. He emphasised that the government wants to amend the act based on its “own benefits.” The amendments in the legislation would enable the prime minister to hold onto any candidate through a notification, without any complex process. He also claimed that the government wanted to bring the military to the same level as the Punjab police, and said that the appointment of the COAS would happen along the same lines as the head of the judiciary.
Other leaders including Maulana Fazlur Rehman and other leaders were consulted on the matter, where the allied parties have “fully mandated” the prime minister for making the appointment as per “set procedures and traditions”. A majority of the coalition leaders said that the prime minister has the administrative and discretionary power to appoint the army chief, including the PPP and JUI-F leaders. (“Government contacts President Arif Alvi on COAS appointment,” The News International, 19 November 2022; Syed Irfan Raza, “Politicking surges days before new COAS is named,” Dawn, 19 November 2022; “Nawaz wants a ‘yes-man’ as COAS, claims Imran,” The Express Tribune, 18 November 2022; “Decision on COAS ‘very shortly’ as president assures no ‘mischief’,” The Express Tribune, 19 November 2022; “Govt hints at naming new COAS next week,” The Express Tribune, 19 November 2022)