Defence Minister Khawaja Asif on Monday said the process to appoint the new army chief had kicked off as Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif formally wrote a letter to the Ministry of Defence seeking a summary for the potential candidates.
Speaking on the floor of the National Assembly, the defence minister hinted at the formal announcement of the key appointment within the next three days.
پاک فوج کے اعلیٰ ترین عہدوں پہ تقرری کا عمل آج شروع ھو چکا ھے انشاءاللہ جلد تماتر آئینی تقاضوں کیمطابق تکمیل ھو جاۓگا.
— Khawaja M. Asif (@KhawajaMAsif) November 21, 2022
“The process will complete in two to three days. The excitement will end, after which we will deal with Imran Khan,” the defence minister said.
He, earlier in a tweet, said the process had started and would be completed soon after fulfilling all the constitutional requirements.
Separately, in a television interview, Asif said the prime minister had written a letter to the defence ministry to send the summary and dossiers of eligible lieutenant generals for the posts of chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee and the army chief.
He said the announcement of the new army chief would be made by November 26, the same day when PTI Chairman and former premier Imran Khan is scheduled to stage a protest in Rawalpindi as part of his campaign to seek early elections.
Asif said the defence ministry had confirmed receiving the letter from the premier while the GHQ had also been kept in the loop.
Read Process to appoint COAS to begin on Nov 18: Asif
There were reports earlier that the summary was already received by the Prime Minister’s Office containing names of five eligible candidates. The government, however, denied such a development.
Later the defence minister blamed the media for airing stories on the appointment of new army chief without verifying from the relevant authorities.
He said unnecessary hype and hysteria was being created over the process. Appointment rife with speculations
On Sunday, a senior government official had dismissed speculations that there had been any civil-military deadlock over the key appointment.
"You will see the clear picture will emerge by Monday evening regarding the process of appointment," the high-ranking official told The Express Tribune while requesting anonymity.
The new army chief will take charge on November 29 as the incumbent General Qamar Javed Bajwa would doff his uniform the same day after completing six years in office.
There has been extraordinary interest in the appointment of his successor as many believe PTI chairman’s long march is linked to the change of command in the army.
Read More Govt hints at naming new COAS next week
Imran has asked his supporters to gather in Rawalpindi on November 26, two days before General Bajwa hands over the baton to the new army chief.
There have been speculations that the government and the army may have locked horns over the new appointment. One conjecture is that the army is not agreeing to the nominee of the government for the top slot.
However, a top government official had rubbished those claims. "There are no differences between the civil and military leadership on the issue. Everything is on track."
There have also been questions about the seniority list. Rumours have it that a certain candidate may not be part of the summary since his retirement is due before the army chief's retirement.
But the government figure dismissed such claims, saying he would be very much part of the summary and considered for the top slot.
As per the seniority list, Lt General Asim Munir, Lt General Sahir Shamshad Mirza, Lt General Azhar Abbas, Lt General Numan Mahmud and Lt General Faiz Hameed are in contention for the job of chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee and the army chief.
The current army chief’s tenure will end on November 29 while the chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff committee will relinquish his duties on November 27.