Former prime minister and PTI Chairman Imran Khan has clarified that he did not talk about giving extension to the army chief but suggested deferring the new appointment till after the next general elections.

He said this on Tuesday while speaking to the journalists in Islamabad, a day after indirectly hinting at granting another extension to the incumbent COAS, General Qamar Javed Bajwa, albeit for a short period.

“I have stated that the position of the army chief is very important. The appointment has to be done on merit. I will repeat time and again that it should be done on merit,” Imran said during an interview with private TV channel while building his case for the new army chief’s appointment after the elections.

He had said neither Asif Ali Zardari nor Nawaz Sharif fulfilled the criteria of merit to appoint the new army chief, adding they both lacked the moral ground to be part of such an important decision-making process.

“One is an absconder and convicted; his wealth is stashed abroad; he is imposed on us through a foreign conspiracy,” he had said.

In Tuesday’s conversation with journalists, Imran said that his proposal for the extension of the army chief’s tenure is “subject to the announcement of early elections.”

“The appointment of the army chief should be delayed until the election of a new government,” he added.

The PTI chief said that a few individuals have put the national security at stake for their own vested interests. “It is also possible that I will reveal the names of all those people,” he warned.

Imran said he had always talked about the betterment of the country. “I am standing with the institutions that are standing with the national interests.”

He reiterated that no organisation can excel without merit and added that “the institution of army is strong because it follows merit.”

‘FINAL CALL’: On his much-hyped strategy to force the incumbent government to call early elections, Imran said he would give final call to the nation in this regard no later than September.

“They [government] are baffled by my in-swinging yorker,” he said while using a cricket analogy.

Imran said he was not in favour of delaying the early elections till March. “Whoever goes against the interest of Pakistan, I will stand against him. This ‘lame government’ is nothing without the establishment. I don’t want anyone to harm the country under the guise of the establishment,” he added.

He also called upon the judiciary to create a merit-based mechanism for the appointment of judges.

Speaking about his controversial remarks involving military top brass, Imran said he did not understand why Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) issued a statement as he only said that “army chief should be appointed on merit”.

Imran’s statement had triggered a strong reaction from the army when he recently accused both the People’s Party and the Muslim League-Nawaz of seeking the appointment of an army chief of their choice in a bid to save their skin from corruption cases.

GOVT REJECTS PROPOSAL: Earlier, the coalition government rejected Imran’s proposal to extend the tenure of COAS General Bajwa.

Defence Minister Khawaja Asif said the discussion regarding the appointment of the army chief is ‘premature’.

Rejecting Imran’s proposal, Asif, who said on Twitter that Imran had “stooped so low in his lust for power that he is now using the army chief’s appointment to deviate from the elections and politics.”

The PML-N leader said that the incumbent government will reach a decision regarding the appointment when the time is right while keeping in mind the traditions set by the Constitution and the institution.

“Important national decisions are not subject to political interests,” he said.

Asif, while speaking on a private TV channel, said the PTI chairman is deliberately trying to make the appointment of the army chief controversial with a well-thought-out plan as this is ‘premature’ to discuss at the present time as there are still two and a half months left in Bajwa’s tenure.

He said that Imran was targeting the establishment and on the other, he is looking to create opportunities for dialogue.

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