Only PM to appoint army chief ‘at any cost’, Sharif brothers decide in London huddle

As crucial discussions among various sta­k­eholders around the next Pakistan army chief’s appointment gain momentum within and outside the country, the Sharif brothers have reportedly decided in a London huddle that the prime minister will not buckle under any ‘pressure’ to make the all-important appointment – come what may, media report said.

Meanwhile, it emerged on Thursday that former prime minister Nawaz Sharif had been issued a diplomatic passport, paving the way for his impending return to the country, Dawn reported.

In the face of looming pr­e­ssure from Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chair­man Imran Khan to appoint a new army chief that would be acceptable to him, and announce early polls, both Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and his elder brother Nawaz Sharif have decided that the powers of the premier to appoint the army chief will not be surrendered at any cost, a reliable source privy to the talks between the two brothers in London said, Dawn reported.

Insiders said that the prime minister had reportedly flown to London to place the options he was conveyed by certain quarters before his elder brother in the context of the fast-changing political scenario.

However, the source said both brothers agreed not to give in to Khan’s demand for snap elections.

“PM Shehbaz told Nawaz that almost all Pakistan Dem­­ocratic Movement (PDM) parties are on the same page over the premier’s powers to appoint the army chief and complete the incumbent government’s ten­ure till August 2023. They (PML-N and allied parties) are even ready to sacrifice their government, but will not budge from their stance,” the source maintained, Dawn reported.

Nawaz’s children – Mar­yam, Hassan and Hussain – were also present in the meetings.

A PML-N insider said the coalition government had “cer­tain pressures” from some quarters over the issue of army chief’s appointment and fresh polls. “That is why Shehbaz reached out to the party supremo to decide whether to accept some demands or not,” he said.

The prime minister had rushed to London on Wedne­s­day on his way back from Egypt to have the ‘final word’ from his elder brother and party’s supreme leader, who has been in a self-imposed exile for three years, over the appointment of the new army chief. Sources said an extension to Gen Bajwa was also discussed during the meeting. Gen Bajwa’s tenure is set to end on November 29, Dawn reported.

This was Shehbaz Sharif’s third visit to the UK since taking over as premier in April this year.

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