Key appointments: All’s well that ends well


Key appointments: All’s well that ends well

The PTI long march is likely to end up in a public meeting and that is it


Ansar M Bhatti

Let me begin this piece by borrowing the last paragraph of my article published in this newspaper on Tuesday November 22, 2022 which reads,” Pakistan has literally become a laughing stock in the eyes of many, especially our adversaries. The situation therefore demands better sense to prevail. The leading political parties’ i.e PTI and PML N need to rise to the occasion. They have to shelve their personal liking and disliking for the greater interest of Pakistan. They must keep in mind that they would not get anything if things go out of control and non-political forces are left with no option but to make an immediate intervention”.

On Thursday, November 24 the Prime Minister appointed the senior most Lt. General Syed Asim Munir Shah as the Army Chief and second in the seniority list Lt. General Sahir Shamshad Mirza as the Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee. Both of them now have become the four star generals and will have another three years to service the force. The better sense finally prevailed and the PTI leadership instead of creating any hurdles decided to accept this decision or maybe they did not have any other choice. Whatever may have been the consideration behind the decision to approve these appointments, one thing is for sure that their move will help achieve some sort of political stability albeit the economic stability will continue to pose some serious challenges.

The PTI perhaps played smart by immediately acceding to the Prime Minister proposal regarding these two key appointments. The PML N and allied parties wanted the PTI leadership to sit on this decision. In that case bad blood would have been created between the PTI leadership and the newly-appointed military leadership. But to the disappointment of the government ranks, Imran Khan rather acted in a wise manner and thus avoided any possible face-off with the new military leadership, at least for the time being.

As mentioned in my earlier article, the PTI chairman in the beginning told his confidantes that he would accept anybody as the army chief but not Asim Munir. However afterwards he changed his tone and tenor by publicly pronouncing that he won’t mind whosoever is elevated to these highest offices. Now when the dust has settled, it is time for some musings. The incumbent army chief will have a great onus on his shoulders. Since Imran Khan had built a narrative as if General Asim Munir had any soft corner for the PML N therefore he may try to corner the PTI. Independent sources strongly believe that there was never a connection between the newly-appointed army chief and PML N leadership. A senior PML N leader, on the condition of not being named, said that since Imran Khan when he as prime minister had removed Asim Munir from the post of DG ISI only after months of his appointment as the spy master, therefore PML N leadership presumed as if after becoming the army chief he might try to settle scores.

The only technical problem with the appointment of Asim Munir as the army chief was his retirement date, but the Cabinet during its meeting on Thursday had frozen his retirement date, which means even if the President would have delayed the approval, Asim Munir would still continue with his job. Anyhow thanks to some saner elements those things were not driven to that extreme.

Now the question is how would the PTI react in public? One thing is for sure that the party has decided not to stage any sit-in Islamabad. The senior party leaders said that the PTI leadership will now try to have some political dialogue in order to pave the way for the elections. The senior leaders also told me that the Saturday’s long march gathering may not turn into a dharna, as earlier announced by the party leadership. It will be just a procession where Imran Khan would deliver his speech and announce his future course of action. My understanding is that Imran Khan will move cautiously on this issue and may not take a hard line regarding these appointments. However he may express his and party’s wish that they would like to see the new military leadership acting in an absolutely impartial manner. And for the military it should not be a problem because General Qamar Javed Bajwa in his last address had made it clear that the army, as an institution, had decided to keep away from politics.

Another challenge the new military leadership will have to tackle is to manage cordial relations with especially friendly countries such as Saudi Arabia, UAE and China for Pakistan’s economic well-being is directly linked to smooth relations with these countries. One should hope that these friendly countries would also welcome these appointments and move forward for a shared and prosperous future for the people of these countries.

All said and done, unfortunately there are certain elements, even in the media, that are trying to pitch PTI and the new military leadership against each other. They are making all our efforts to prove that General Asim Munir managed to become the army chief despite stiff resistance and opposition from the PTI leadership. Even if that may be the case, it does not look prudent to add fuel to fire when things are already settling down. These hawks, no matter which party they belong to, need to be discouraged. The country is already at the verge of default. Any further confrontation would only prove a recipe for disaster.

The PTI under the given circumstances would need a face saving, which is possible only if the government agrees to announce elections. After latest developments, it seems difficult for the PTI to get its demands fulfilled through any coercive means. After Imran Khan’s bids to mend fences with the USA, he probably would like have tension-free ties with the military establishment as well, which for many analysts, appears to be a judicious move.