• Monday, November 28, 2022

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Pakistan Army chief to retire in November ‘no matter what’

Pakistan Army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa (Photo by Sebastian Widmann/Getty Images)

By: Chandrashekar Bhat

PAKISTAN’S Army has said it has “nothing to do with politics” as it asserted that its chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa will retire on November 29 “no matter what.”

Amidst a vicious social media campaign against the powerful “establishment” for not backing former prime minister Imran Khan, military spokesman major general Babar Iftikhar said that Pakistan’s survival “lies solely on democracy” and its strength lies in the institutions, be it Parliament, Supreme Court or the Armed forces.

The Pakistan Army has “nothing to do with politics” and the institution has decided to remain apolitical in the future as well, he told a press conference on Thursday (14), three days after opposition leader Shehbaz Sharif was sworn in as the new prime minister.

Khan, who came to power in 2018, reportedly with the backing of the military, became the first Pakistan prime minister who was defeated in a no-confidence vote in the National Assembly earlier this month.

Iftikhar confirmed that Khan had approached the army chief to find a solution to the political crisis.

“It is unfortunate that our political leadership was not ready to talk. So the army chief and DG ISI went to the PM Office and three scenarios were discussed,” he said, recalling that one was that the no-confidence motion should be held as it was. The others were that the prime minister would resign or the no-confidence motion was retracted and the assemblies were dissolved.

Iftikhar rejected the rumours circulating on social media about the establishment meeting the opposition parties. “There is no truth to this,” he asserted.

He clarified that General Bajwa was “unwell” on the day Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) president Sharif took office and had to skip the oath-taking ceremony on Monday (11).

Iftikhar also announced that General Bajwa, 61, will retire this year.

“Let me put this to rest. The chief of army staff is neither seeking an extension nor will he accept an extension. No matter what, he will be retiring on the 29th of November 2022,” he said.

General Bajwa, who was appointed by then prime minister Nawaz Sharif in 2016, was granted an extension in August 2019 by the Khan government.

Iftikhar rubbished the rumours about the threat of martial law at the height of the recent political turmoil.

“There will never be martial law in Pakistan.”

To a question about the opening of courts in the middle of the night when the battle for the no-confidence vote was going on, he said that it was a decision by the courts and the army had nothing to do with it.

The powerful army, which has ruled the coup-prone country for more than half of its 73 plus years of existence, has wielded considerable power in the matters of security and foreign policy.

Khan, who was ousted from power on Sunday (10), had apparently also lost the support of the Army after he refused to endorse the appointment of the ISI spy agency chief last year. Finally, he agreed but it soured his ties with the Army.

In response to a question, the spokesman said that the army was on board with the visit of Khan to Russia. But termed it embarrassing when Russia launched an attack on Ukraine when Khan was in Moscow. The spokesman said that the United States had not asked Pakistan to provide army bases after withdrawing from Afghanistan.

“But if the US had asked for the bases, the army’s response would have been the same as that of PM Khan,” he said.

(PTI)

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