The meeting between Pakistan Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and his elder brother Nawaz Sharif in London has decided that the government will not succumb to any pressure, including from Imran Khan, on the appointment of the successor of army chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa, according to media reports on Friday.
Shehbaz Sharif met Nawaz Sharif, the supremo of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) this week and decided to not give in to Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) chief Imran Khan’s demand to announce early polls, the Dawn newspaper reported.
The Sharif brothers have maintained that the power to appoint the army chief rest with the country’s premier and will not be surrendered at any cost, the report quoted a source as saying.
According to a PML-N insider, Shehbaz’s government had ‘certain pressures’ from some quarters over the issue of the army chief’s appointment and fresh polls, which is why the prime minister sought to discuss it with the party supremo to decide whether to accept these demands or not, the report said.
The sources also said that the possibility of Gen Bajwa’s extension was also discussed during the meeting.
Gen Bajwa’s tenure is set to end on November 29.
However, the Pakistan Army has denied speculation about its chief Gen Bajwa having another tenure as he has already begun paying farewell visits to various garrisons as part of the tradition.
Pakistan’s Defence Minister Khawaja Asif who was in London with Prime Minister Shehbaz and others also confirmed that the primary discussion of the meeting was key issues related to the country’s developments, the appointment of the new army chief, along with the recent statements made by military’s media wing on General Bajwa’s farewell, and government’s strategy to deal with the PTI’s long march, the Express Tribune newspaper reported.
Khan has persistently critisised the Prime Minister for consulting his elder brother in crucial government decisions, saying it violated the Official Secrets Act and was a breach of his oath.
However, Khan appeared to have changed his stance a few days ago and said that he has no issues with the Shehbaz government appointing the new army chief.
Shedding some more light on the discussions in London, the PML-N sources told the Express Tribune newspaper that the government would prefer someone as a military chief who would likely be in sync with the ideas of the ruling alliance and in no way force early polls.
The top leadership of the party is also mindful of where Imran stands in the political arena, especially after the recent accusations against the prime minister, interior minister, and a military officer in connection with an attempt on his life at a PTI rally in Wazirabad in Punjab province.
The government is ready to ‘confront’ than to ‘compromise’ irrespective of the pressure the opposition puts, the source said.
The source said that a “long or short march” is not going to change the government’s mind as they cannot afford elections right now after “burning their political capital”, the Express Tribune reported.
Shehbaz took a detour to London on Wednesday on his way back from the COP27 climate conference in Egypt to have the ‘final word’ from his elder brother, who was issued a diplomatic passport with a five-year validity on Thursday.
Nawaz Sharif has been living in London since November 2019 when he was allowed to go there for medical treatment but never returned.
In a brief conversation with the media in London, Shehbaz said, “Mian Sahib (Nawaz Sharif) is coming, failure is destined for Imran Khan”.