The extension of Chief of Army General Raheel Sharif is not on the table, while the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), buoyed by the party’s clean-sweep in the Azad Jammu and Kashmir elections, is quietly devising a strategy to deal with the upcoming anti-government drive announced by Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan on August 7.
A source inside the PML-N, asked to comment on whether there was a proposal under discussion to offer an extension to Chief of Army Staff General Raheel Sharif, whose term in office expires in November, said no such proposal was being considered.
“We are open to the idea, but the army chief has refused to seek an extension,” the source said and added that a proposal to this effect can be discussed if a request comes from official channels.
PM IS AGAINST EXTENSION IN PRINCIPLE:
The PML-N leader said that the prime minister was quite appreciative of the role played by the army chief in the war against terrorism but in principle he was against giving extensions.
The source said that Nawaz Sharif as an opposition leader had also opposed extension for former army chief General (r) Ashfaq Parvez Kayani in a television interview.
“Since the army chief went public with the announcement to not seek an extension, the matter is closed,” the source said.
Pakistan Muslim League-Zia (PML-Z) Chief Ijazul Haq also confirmed that extension is not being considered as the COAS has already made clear his thoughts on the subject.
“In my personal opinion, extension should be offered, as operation Zarb-e-Azb is still incomplete and the change of leadership may not be a good idea. The anti-terrorism drive also needs continuity and so, the army chief should stay. However, since the army chief has already made his intentions clear, I don’t know how the matter may be addressed,” he added.
Ijazul Haq opposed the idea to extend the tenure of the army chief through legislation – another possible workaround being touted for keeping the army chief in-charge for now – fearing the matter may be politicised.
“Army’s pride will be hurt if the matter is brought to the parliament as politicians will criticise the idea and it will not go down well with the army cadres,” he said.
PML-N BRACES FOR PTI ONSLAUGHT:
Whether the army chief stays at the helm after November or not, the ruling party is closing ranks around the prime minister as the leader of their party and the country. A source in the ruling party told Pakistan Today that there is no truth in what he called ‘the gossip’ of the change of guard at the Prime Minister’s House and rather a strategy was being discussed to deal with the PTI’s upcoming campaign.