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PR Short Notes


Photo Source: Dawn

Pakistan Reader# 415, 22 November 2022

Debate continues: Pakistan yet to decide on the next COAS



What this entails for Imran Khan and the country?

Bhoomika Sesharaj

On 21 November, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif requested the defence ministry of a prospective summary of the appointment of the new army chief, along with the service reports of all the candidates that the government is seeking to name as successors to the COAS by 25 November. The COAS is retiring on 29 November, whereas the Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee is set to retire on 27 November. In response to the request, Defence Minister Khawaja Asif said that his ministry had acknowledged the PM’s letter, and led that the summary of the COAS and the service reports of the imperative profiles would “likely” be sent to the PM’s office, with the process of the new army chief’s appointment being completed in the next two to three days. He warned the media of creating “too much hype” in the announcement of the COAS, and requested them to “maintain the sanctity of the process”. Speaking to the National Assembly, Asif mentioned the “blurred” roles of the country’s institutions and said that the political frenzies in the country were “mainly responsible” for the military to constantly interfere in the government’s affairs. Pushing the bureaucrats to share the brunt of responsibilities, Asif pointed out the lack of management by the military as well, saying, “the judiciary also has nothing to be proud of, if we look into history.”

Additionally, he said that the chaos in the political sphere of the country would “fizzle out” once the new COAS is announced, and called on to Imran Khan’s consistent attacks on the military establishment for the last few weeks. He said:

  • “...Today, an institution [army] is categorically stating that it has decided to give up its political or unconstitutional role and has made the announcement that it will play its constitutional role of defending the motherland, but Imran Khan has made their neutrality a curse”. 

  • “...This was nothing but an invitation to [the establishment] to intervene and prevent us from taking a constitutional step, only to save his government.”

Who appoints the COAS?
According to Article 243(3) of the Constitution, the president of Pakistan appoints the service chiefs of the country based on the recommendation of the Prime Minister. PM Shehbaz is expected to use his discretionary powers to choose the new COAS and chairman of the joint chiefs and is presently subjected to a shortage of time. The appointments are sent to the President who can take his time to mull over the decisions, and accordingly accede to the PM’s recommendations within 10 days. The generals decided by the PM are based on a seniority principle but are met with a deadlock, with General Asim Munir who is retiring on 27 November. The defence minister said that the deadlock would not create a wedge in the timely decision of the government, and assured that the “timeline” set would be met. 

What did other leaders say?
On 21 November, a press release of the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) said that COAS Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa visited the Naval and Air headquarters as part of his farewell visits and was presented a “guard of honour” by a contingent of the Pakistan Navy. Bajwa “admired” the role of the Navy in “safeguarding the country’s maritime frontiers” and highlighted its role during “the war against terrorism”. He inaugurated a pre-fabricated village in the Lal Gul Goth area in Rawalpindi, which has been constructed for people affected by the floods. This comes as Bajwa is set to retire as COAS on the 29th of November. On the other hand, the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) gathered hundreds of workers and supporters and staged a rally on 21 November, where they expressed “solidarity” with the Pakistan Army.

The participants of the rally were led by PPP’s Divisional President, where they raised banners and national flags with the words, “Pakistan Army Zindabad” and “Long Live Pakistan.” These protests come as other opposition leaders criticise the “ongoing propaganda” against the army, saying that the army is “protecting the frontiers” of Pakistan and that the campaign against the establishment is uncalled for. (Baqir Sajjad Syed, “Events in motion to have new chief within the week,” Dawn, 22 November 2022; Ali Jan Mangi, “PPP holds really in solidarity with army,” Dawn, 22 November 2022; Saleem Shahid, “Army chief lauds services of naval, air forces,” Dawn, 22 November 2022)

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