ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is considering taking away the additional charge of the Ministry of Defence from Khawaja Muhammad Asif, The Express Tribune has learnt.
Asif, who hold the portfolios for both defence, and water and power, has found himself at the centre of a controversy following his remarks on former president Pervez Musharraf’s treason trial.
Although the army has not officially demanded Asif’s removal as defence minister, insiders say there is a growing feeling within the military that his presence may not auger well for a ‘smooth’ civil-military relationship.
“Naturally, it is not easy for the army to work with a defence minister who is making such unwarranted statements,” a security official told The Express Tribune while requesting anonymity. “It is up to the government to take a decision [though]… we have not demanded or asked for his removal,” he added, however.
According to official sources, the prime minister has been making efforts to pacify the growing anger within the army over certain remarks made by his cabinet members. In addition to assuring the top military leadership that his government has no plans to discredit the army, the premier is contemplating taking away the largely ceremonial portfolio of defence from Asif, they said.
The sources added that Prime Minister Nawaz is likely to keep the defence ministry’s charge to himself or may give it to the Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, who is believed to enjoy good ties with the military leadership.
The premier will take a final decision after taking into account the likely negative fallout of such a move – which may be interpreted as the government succumbing to military pressure – according to the sources.
Despite repeated attempts, Khawaja Asif was not available for comments.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 14th, 2014.