The federal government, using the Army Act, on Thursday decided to retain the services of Lt-Gen Asim, in a clear message to thwart any attempt by PTI Chairman Imran Khan to make the process controversial.
Earlier in the day, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif nominated Lt-Gen Asim as the new chief of army staff (COAS) and sent the summary to President Arif Alvi.
During a federal cabinet meeting, Defence Minister Khawaja Asif read the summary on the issue, which was approved unanimously.
Certainly, the government is finetuning different matters as there are fear that President Arif Alvi may withhold or return the prime minister’s advice on Lt-Gen Asim’s promotion.
The decision to retain Lt-Gen Asim isn’t unique as the Army Act clearly allows that while there are examples from the past too.
Alvi to meet Imran
In a related development, Alvi reached Lahore to meet Imran at his Zaman Park residence with the visit planned to discuss the matter of promotions in military.
Senior party leaders Shah Mehmood Qureshi, Asad Umar and others are also participating in the meeting as the PTI tries to finalise their stance. There is a difference of opinion as some leaders calling for accept the government decision while others suggesting an opposite course of action.
On Wednesday, Imran said Alvi would make a decision on the much-awaited appointment in military after consulting him.
Imran said he was in touch with the president about the summary, as many have feared that the president may withhold or return the document back to the Prime Minister’s Office.
He made these remarks during an interview with the ARY News. “Won’t my party’s president contact me?” Imran questioned.
“I do not trust the intentions of Nawaz Sharif,” he said and added that the PML-N supremo wanted to bring such an army chief who would end his [Imran’s] politics as well as that of the PTI.
He, however, in the same interview took a contradictory position, saying he had no interest in who would be the new army chief as claimed that he neither had to withdraw corruption cases nor wanted to win elections. Anyone on merit should be promoted to the slot, he added.
It is important to note that Imran, when he was the prime minister, had removed Lt-Asim Munir from the position of ISI chief after he reportedly informed him about the alleged corruption of his [Imran’s] family members.
That is the reason why Khawaja Asif on Thursday said the advice was sent to the president. “Now it is test for Imran Khan whether he strengthens the institution responsible for the country’s defence or controversial,” he noted.
Khawaja Asif added that it was also a trial for the president if he would follow the political advice or the legal and constitutional one. Being the military’s supreme commander, it was his duty to protect the institution from political disputes.
ISI chief meets PM
Separately, ISI DG Lt-Gen Nadeem Anjum called on Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif as they discussed matters pertaining to the law-and-order situation in the country.
It is important to recall that Lt-Gen Nadeem was among the participants of a meeting two days ago too at the Prime Minister’s Office. Khawaja Asif was the other person attending the huddle.