Interior minister Rana Sanaullah said the matter would be settled in the “next 24 or 48 hours”. “I believe the Prime Minister (Shehbaz Sharif) has completed this process (of consultations on the new chief) and will bring it to paper today, tomorrow or a day after,” Sanaullah said. He added that any further delay would not be advisable and requested the media to avoid asking questions at this late stage that stoke “unnecessary speculation”.
The defence ministry is yet to move a customary “summary” to PM Shehbaz’s office on the possible successors of incumbent General Qamar Javed Bajwa. The summary usually includes the names of five senior-most generals.
Traditionally, the PM consults the outgoing army chief on his successor, but that advice is not binding. Former PM Nawaz Sharif — Shehbaz’s elder brother — had ignored the advice of outgoing chiefs General Pervez Kayani and General Raheel Sharif in 2013 and 2016, respectively.
Although the appointment is the PM’s sole prerogative, Shehbaz and finance minister Ishaq Dar have spoken to all stakeholders. Shehbaz is learnt to have discussed the issue when he travelled to London last week and met Nawaz, his brother and three-time former PM in exile there.
On Friday, FM Dar held separate meetings with President Arif Alvi and key leaders of the governing coalition, including former President Asif Ali Zardari and Maulana Fazlur Rehman.
Rumours had swirled earlier that Alvi — who is from Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) — may block the customary summary at the behest of his party chief who has sparred with the Sharifs over the top army post.
But Alvi put to rest all such rumours after meeting Dar and saying he will follow the PM’s advice. “I do not have the legal authority to stop the PM’s advice. I have never interfered in state affairs,” Alvi said.
After weeks of duelling on the issue, ex-PM Imran recently said he was no longer interested in the new military chief but reiterated claims that Nawaz was trying to appoint someone who could disqualify the PTI chief from politics.