West News Wire: The prime minister’s office said that it had received a list of candidates for six senior generals for what is arguably the most powerful position in the nation and that Pakistan’s nuclear-armed army will soon have a new commander.
General Qamar Javed Bajwa, the current chief of army staff, will retire on November 29 after six years in office.
The names of candidates for the jobs of army commander and joint chiefs of staff committee chairman were received, the office of Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif tweeted on Wednesday.
It stated, “The Prime Minister will decide on the appointments in accordance with the established protocol.”
In November 2016, Bajwa was appointed commander of the three-year, 600,000-member army. He was granted an extension in August 2019 by then-Prime Minister Imran Khan.
The confirmation from the prime minister’s office followed confusion, claims and counter-claims on Tuesday night that played out in the news as well as on social media, triggering speculation of strained ties between the government and the military.
The military is considered to be Pakistan’s most powerful institution and has ruled the country for more than three decades of the 75 years since it gained independence in 1947, and also imposed martial law thrice.
As prime minister, Sharif has the authority to pick any general from a recommended list.
Defence minister Khawaja Asif tweeted that the list of names would be sent to the prime minister’s office in “due time” after a private broadcaster reported that the names were in.
“The Prime Minister has not received the summary as yet. God willing, receipt of the summary to PMO will be done in due time,” he posted.
However, past midnight, Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR), the military’s media wing, confirmed, through a tweet, that the six names had been sent to the defence ministry.
The defence minister took to Twitter an hour later to confirm the list’s status.
“The summary from Ministry of Defence has been received at the PMO. God willing, rest of the steps will also be completed soon,” he wrote.
Asif tried to downplay what appeared to be a deadlock over the choice for the top job. He said in a TV interview that the government and military don’t have any differences and any claims to the contrary were unfounded.
Neither the ISPR nor the ministry mentioned the names of the top generals, who are, in order of seniority: Lt General Asim Munir, Lt General Sahir Shamshad Mirza, Lt General Azhar Abbas, Lt General Nauman Mehmood, Lt General Faiz Hameed and Lt General Mohammad Amir.
Commenting on the uncertainty around the appointment, Singapore-based security analyst Abdul Basit said the never-ending political tussles and power games have come at the cost of governance in Pakistan.