Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) co-chairman and former president Asif Ali Zardari on Friday said that all three-star generals are equal and fully qualified to head the army. However, he feared that if the matter of appointing the next army chief became political, it will harm the institution.
The statement comes amid debate over the appointment of the new military chief which intensified after the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR), the media wing of the military, confirmed earlier this month that General Qamar Javed Bajwa would doff off his uniform on November 29 at the completion of his six-year tenure.
The debate is also linked to the current political stalemate stemming from former prime minister Imran Khan’s long march. Political observers are of the view that one of the objectives of Imran’s long march is to influence the army chief’s appointment though he has denied such claims.
"We strongly believe in the promotion system of the Pakistan Army. All three-star generals are equal and fully qualified to lead the army," Zardari said in today’s statement.
The PPP leader said that the matter of appointment should not be politicised as it will harm the institution, adding that the army chief will be appointed by the prime minister as per the law.
Meanwhile, the initial consultation process between the government and coalition partners on the high-profile appointment has begun.
According to sources, the coalition partners have assured the federal government of their full cooperation. The consultation process took place during the meetings between Finance Minister Ishaq Dar and JUI-F Amir Maulana Fazlur Rehman and Asif Ali Zardari. Imran Khan's long march and overall political situation of the country were also discussed during the meetings.
Former prime minister and PML-N supremo Nawaz Sharif also held telephonic conversations with the political leaders during the meetings.
The sources said that the coalition partners urged the prime minister to take decisions as per the Constitution regarding the appointment of the army chief and other important matters.
They were of the opinion that the country will move towards political and economic stability if decisions are taken in unison.
In the meetings, it was decided not to give importance to the narrative of Imran Khan and his long march. The three major coalition partners also agreed to work together in near future, the sources further said.
Given the past practice, the ministry of defence will send a list of the top five generals to the Prime Minister's Office for the appointment of chairman joint chiefs of staff committee and the chief of the army staff. However, the prime minister can ask for more names if he is not satisfied with the list.
The summary for the appointments of key slots in the military will likely be moved closer to the retirement date of Gen Bajwa. The formal announcement is likely to be made only a few days before the change of command.
Following are the top five generals after Gen Bajwa: Lt-Gen Asim Munir, QuarterMaster General, Lt-Gen Sahir Shahmshad Mirza, Corps Commander Rawalpindi, Lt-Gen Azhar Abbas, Chief of General Staff, Lt-Gen Numan Mahmood, President National Defence University and Lt-Gen Faiz Hameed, Corps Commander Bahawalpur.
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