In Pakistan, the most important decision that has become the centre of focus of all political, analytical and concerned quarters (both domestic and international) is the appointment of the new Chief of Army Staff (COAS).
Even though the whole process of the appointment is a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) and holds legal cover through the country’s Constitution; the current sitting government, the daunting opposition of Imran Khan and his street power, coupled with backdoor active communication, all politicians with the military establishment have made this critical appointment, a matter of an open-ended public debate, criticism and a social media trend.
As per the current situation, the former Prime Minister, who was ousted off power through a no-confidence vote by his joint opposition in Parliament, is leading an anti-government long march from Lahore towards Islamabad, demanding early elections in the country, questioning the appointment of the new army chief by the sitting Prime Minster Shehbaz Sharif and seeking intervention from the powerful military establishment to oust the current coalition government and ensure his return to power through a one-third majority in the elections and a single party government formation.
Khan, after surviving an assassination attempt on his life during his long march in Wazirabad, Punjab, in which, he was injured by a spray of bullets fired by assailants, has been residing at his residence in Lahore and addressing his supporters through video link on a daily basis as his march continues to move towards Islamabad.
The PTI Chairman has called on his supporters to reach Rawalpindi by Saturday as he would be joining the march in Rawalpindi.
Interestingly, the timing of his arrival in Rawalpindi is coinciding with the appointment of the new army chief, whose process of selection has already started since Monday.
Defence Minster Khawaja Asif confirmed that the process for appointment of the new COAS has stared, adding that the announcement will be done by November 26 or 27, the same dates when Khan’s long march will be staged in Rawalpindi.
As per the normal SOPs in practice for appointment of new COAS, the General Headquarters (GHQ) in Rawalpindi sends ahead a dossier, with details of all the candidates (Three star generals) to the Ministry of Defence.
The dossier holds all details, history, credentials and all records of the candidate for reference. The Ministry then sends the dossier ahead to the Prime Minster House in form of a summary. It is then the unilateral decision of the Prime Minister to decide on who will be the next army chief of the country.
However, the process is already witnessing hiccups as the first step for the appointment is still pending as GHQ has not yet sent the dossier to the Defence Ministry.
And to add more to the confusion, Defence Minister Khawaja Asif had to take a back step from his statement that a summary for the new COAS had been sent ahead to the Prime Minister’s House for consideration, a statement made on Monday morning was refuted by Asif himself, who stated that the process had started, however the summary had not been moved yet.
It is also believed that Khan’s consistent and constant concern over Lieutenant General Asim Muneer, who is not only a sword of honor holder but holds the top position among the candidates for COAS because of his seniority, the former premier does not want him to be made the new Army chief as he was forced to leave his post as DGISI his regime.
Some sources also state that because Lt. General Asim Munir is due to retire on November 27, there is an ongoing contemplation within the army ranks that Munir should not be made the army chief.
Other sources state that Munir is currently a three-star general, but before his retirement, he will be promoted to four start general and then will be made the COAS.
All these speculations are gaining more and more momentum with speculations and analysis being done over the sensitivity of political leaders linked with the critical appointment.
Which is why, it would not be wrong to state that when it comes to the appointment of the country’s most powerful man — the army chief — all is not well in Pakistan.