Will Pakistan PM decide who will remain army chief?

Islamabad: The Pakistan Army is the most powerful political force in the troubled South Asian nation. It has governed the country – both directly and indirectly – since the bloody Partition of erstwhile British India in 1947.

Both the better part of the last seven decades, the generals of the Pakistan Army have either ruled directly by imposing martial law or have done so in a more indirect by controlling the civilian governments.

All attempts by the civilian rulers to challenge the Pakistan Army’s meddling in government affairs have been dealt with in ruthless fashion. From Pakistan’s first prime minister Liaquat Ali Khan, the extremely popular Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and his equally popular daughter Benazir Bhutto, the country has a sorry history of the military eliminating civilian leaders who oppose its diktat.

Imran Khan, who is another former prime minister just like the above mentioned personalities, is the latest popular leader to oppose the Pakistan Army. He almost met the same fate of his illustrious when he narrowly survived a gun attack with bullet injuries in his leg.

Now, in an ominious development for Pakistan’s political system, the military is set to become even more powerful. According to a News18 report, the government of Pakistan is reportedly considering amendments to the Pakistan Army Act (PAA) 1952 which will empower the prime minister to retain the army chief via a simple notification.

News18 quoted officials as saying that the amendment would propose to replace the word ‘reappointment’ with ‘retained’. Once the amendment is approved by the Cabinet Committee on Legislation, the prime minister will be able to retain the Pakistan Army chief without the approval of the country’s president.

The Cabinet Committee on Legislation was scheduled to meet on November 11. However, the meeting was later cancelled and a new date will be announced soon.

“All questions will be answered in two weeks. Everything will be clear after November 29. The process of appointment is simple and can be done in four to five days. We have a plan and will go by it,” defence minister Khawaja Asif had told the media earlier this week.

News18 quoted officials as saying that the defence ministry has asked the Pakistan Army top brass to move summary for the appointment of the next army chief. The Pakistan Army will send the names of five Lieutenant Generals who are top contenders to become the next chief of army staff to the defence ministry for consideration.

Lieutenant General Asim Munir is among the frontrunners to become the next chief of the Pakistan Army. However, Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) president Asif Ali Zardari – a part of the ruling coalition – reportedly wants a six-month extension for current army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa.

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