News Analysis | PM Shehbaz Should Announce The New COAS Immediately

News Analysis | PM Shehbaz Should Announce The New COAS Immediately
And finally… the summary has reached the Prime Minister’s Office from the General Headquarters. It contains names of six senior generals of the armed forces -- Lt. Gen. Asim Munir, Sahir Shamshad Mirza, Azhar Abbas, Nauman Pervez, Faiz Hameed and Muhammad Aamir.

The news came like a bolt after an otherwise dull news day, when the familiar murmurs of the long and winding road between Rawalpindi and Islamabad were heard. Those mutterings crystalized into a clear and urgent disclosure late night after senior journalist, Ansar Abbasi, made an appearance on Geo’s Shahzeb Khanzada show after 10pm to break the awaited news about the summary’s landing in the PM Office.

The late night developments on Tuesday set ministers of defence and information in frenzy. Both denied that the PM Office had received the summary – till the director general of the military's media wing, Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR), Lieutenant General Babar Iftikhar confirmed in a tweet, "GHQ has forwarded the summary for selection of CJCSC and COAS, containing names of six senior most lt gens to Ministry of Defence."

Just minutes before the expose, Defence Minister Khawaja Asif in an interview with Khanzada appeared rather guarded, selecting words and inside snippets with caution, just hinting at the developments behind closed doors. At most, he said, the new COAS would be appointed in “24 hours”, and that all matters would be settled by Thursday, Nov 25.

The riveting turns and twists in the last hours exposed the gaping hole at the centre of the Islamabad-Rawalpindi relations. Already, TV analysts were discussing the difference of opinion. Naya Daur editor Raza Rumi said on Khabar Say Aagay show that “Islamabad” and “Rawalpindi” were definitely at odds over the appointment of the next COAS. To which, Muzzamil Suharwardy responded that Shehbaz used to wax lyrical about reconciliation while held at Lahore’s Kot Lakhpat Jail. “And now Nawaz has toned down.”

He said that Rawalpindi would have the final word on the appointment of the next COAS -- “There were no two ways about this”.

Perhaps, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif was feeling jitters all day, for some hectic meetings were held in the PM house on Tuesday. Sharif, recovering from the third bout of Covid-19, met Khawaja Asif, followed by a meeting PPP co-chairman Asif Zardari at the Prime Minister’s House -- expectedly to discuss the name of the next army chief.

However, Information Minister Marriyum Aurangzeb downplayed the Sharif-Zardari meeting. She said that the two met to discuss the “overall situation” in Pakistan.

Also, a special session of the federal cabinet has been summoned by the PM to discuss a “one-point agenda” on Nov 23. It is expected that matters pertaining to the army chief’s appointment will be discussed.

In the middle of this one big whirlwind, PTI chairman Imran Khan was perhaps too engrossed in the game of football between Argentina and Saudi Arabia because, he tweeted: “Congratulations to team KSA for their great victory today against Argentina in the Football World Cup being held in Qatar” – and quite characteristically did not express any displeasure over the events.

And Nawaz Sharif is off to a holiday in Europe.

For now, we know, the summary and the subsequent appointment will settle the rowdiness of the past many days, and prepare us to welcome the 17th army chief by serenely waving hankies.