Defence sources said General Bajwa intends to retire at the end of November. “He will not get any further extension,”. In April this year, Director General Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) Major General Babar Iftikhar had already said the Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Qamar Bajwa will neither seek an extension nor will accept any. The ISPR DG had also asked the political parties and public not to drag the Pakistan Army into politics.
However, questions about the extension of incumbent army chief or the appointment of a new army chief have been repeatedly raised by PTI chairman. Imran Khan in a TV interview on Monday night said the new government should appoint the future Army Chief, implying further extension for General Bajwa till the elections and formulation of new government.
He asked, “How could a fugitive with 85 seats (in the National Assembly) select the Army Chief? If they (the sitting government) win the elections, they can choose the chief, I have no problem.”
The TV talk show host asked Imran, “Elections would be held after 90 days as it is not possible before that. So are you saying what should happen on the day of retirement of Gen Bajwa?” Imran Khan replied, “Its provision can be found; it’s not a big deal. Its provision can be found out for betterment of the country. Lawyers have told me a provision for the new government to take this decision can be found out.”
Although PTI leader Shireen Mazari on Tuesday said what Imran had actually said on Army Chief was misquoted by the senior anchor who interviewed him. The party’s spokesman Fawad Chaudhry said Imran Khan had suggested maintaining the present status quo of the military establishment till the general elections are held.
While Imran Khan without taking the name of Army Chief General Bajwa seeks his extension till the holding of new elections and formation of new government, the COAS is said to be not keen and will not continue beyond November this year.
Strangely, Imran Khan, who now supports the continuation of the incumbent Army Chief till the appointment of future Army Chief by the new government, has been strongly criticising and levelling all sorts of allegations against General Bajwa (without naming him) and holding him responsible for his ouster from the prime minister’s office.
There is no explanation why Imran Khan took this new U-turn. Before the formation of his government, Imran had been against the extension of services chiefs. He took the first U-turn by offering extension to the incumbent Army Chief, whom he had repeatedly praised during his government.
However, after his ouster from the PM office in April this year, he took another U-turn and levelled all sorts of allegations against the present establishment and military high command. Now, he wants General Bajwa to continue till the holding of next elections so that the new government should appoint the Army Chief.