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An overview of the Prime Minister’s Office in Islamabad. — Twitter/PrimeMinisterOfficePakistan

Prime Minister’s office on Monday received the Ministry of Defence’s summary for the appointment of the country’s new army chief.

After receiving the summary, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif called a high-profile meeting to discuss the names of the next army chief and the chairman joint chiefs of staff committee, sources said.

The process to appoint the next head of the military has formally started as Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Qamar Javed Bajwa is all set to retire on November 29. COAS General Bajwa has also kick-started his farewell visits.

The meeting headed by PM Shehbaz Sharif was attended by high-ranking officials alongside Defence Minister Khawaja Asif, Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah, and Law Minister Sardar Ayaz Sadiq. 

Sources have added that the list includes five names of the senior-most military officials — Lt Gen Asim Munir, Lt Gen Sahir Shamshad Mirza, Lt Gen Azhar Abbas, Lt Gen Nauman Mehmood, Lt Gen Faiz Hamid.

Once PM Office approves the names for both coveted slots, the list will be forwarded to the President’s Secretariat for ratification. After that, it will be sent back to PM Office for an official announcement.

In a press conference last week, the PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari made it clear that the country would only accept the appointment of COAS made by the prime minister, who is the only one constitutionally empowered to do so.

He said if President Dr Arif Alvi blocks the PM’s summary regarding the COAS appointment, it would need to be seen how he decides to go down in history, whether by upholding the Constitution or violating it and showing loyalty to his friend, in which case he will suffer the consequences.

“If he opts to block the PM’s summary, it will have consequences,” he said. However, PTI stresses that the president will work in line with the law and not create hurdles in the process.

While addressing journalists, PTI Vice President Shah Mehmood Qureshi said that President Alvi will not stop the summary for the appointment of a new army chief.

‘Tuesday or Wednesday’ 

Defence Minister KhAsif said the process of the appointment of the army chief will start from Monday and be finalised in a week.

Talking to the Geo News programme Aaj Shahzeb Khanzada Kay Sath, the minister said the name of the next army chief would come out by Tuesday or Wednesday and the change of command ceremony would be held on November 29.

He said the long march would suffer a serious blow the day the appointment decision was made.

As the days got closer to Gen Bajwa’s retirement, before consulting the ruling partners on the crucial appointment, PM Shehbaz approached his brother, PML-N supremo Nawaz Sharif regarding the decision. In a meeting in London in early November, both the leaders agreed to appoint the military’s senior-most officer as the next army chief.

As he touched down in Pakistan after his London visit last week, the prime minister fell sick, but he started consultations with the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) leaders for the coveted slot.

The allied parties had fully mandated the premier for making the appointment as per set procedures and traditions, sources told Online news agency.

According to them, PDM chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman telephoned the prime minister to inquire about his health. During the telephone conversation, the two leaders exchanged views on the situation in the country and the appointment of the new army chief.

Sources said Fazl threw his weight behind PM Shehbaz, saying he should appoint the new army chief as per the set procedure.

They said a majority of the ruling coalition leaders termed the army chief’s appointment an administrative and discretionary power of the prime minister.

PPP and JUI-F leadership fully authorised PM Shehbaz Sharif to appoint the new army chief as per his wishes.

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