July 27, 2022
ISLAMABAD – President Dr Arif Alvi on Tuesday said that in his opinion there was “no harm” in appointing the next army chief before the expiry of the incumbent’s term.
Chief of Army Staff (COAS) Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa, who was given an extension by the previous PTI government in 2019, will leave his position on November 29 when his second three-year tenure comes to an end.
The next army chief’s appointment is at times mentioned as one of the subplots in the ongoing political crisis engulfing the country.
During an interaction with journalists in Islamabad, President Alvi was asked about his thoughts on the possibility of the appointment being made ahead of time, to which he indicated he would not object to any such moves.
“In my opinion, there is no harm in making the army chief’s appointment ahead of time,” he said.
On a question about whether the army could play a role amid the current political quagmire in the country, he said: “There is no constitutional role for the army in the country [for resolving political crises].”
Further questioned about the political situation in the country, he said he did not have the authority to tell anyone to engage or hold a dialogue. However, he did say that “the President House is ready to play its role [for reconciliation] if all parties agree.”
Alvi said the presidential system was not the solution to the country’s woes as he put his faith in the existing parliamentary system.
The president denied violating the Constitution or betraying the country, but acknowledged that the proceedings under Article 6 of the Constitution should definitely be initiated against traitors.
Referring to the cablegate crisis, Alvi said he believed that a “clear mandate” for governance was very important and the results of any investigation on the diplomatic cable — at the centre of the crisis — should be brought before the public.
Relations with PM Shehbaz
President Alvi rubbished the perception that his relations with Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif were not cordial, saying that such an impression was “wrong”.
He said he had received 74 summaries from the incumbent government, of which he had signed and sent back 69.
Alvi said he had held back summaries relating to the Punjab governor, overseas voting rights, electronic voting machines (EVM) and changes in the National Accountability Bureau’s (NAB) laws.
He said he had not discussed the changes in the NAB or EVM laws with PTI Chairman Imran Khan and his last correspondence with him was on the issue of Punjab’s governor.
The president also acknowledged the efforts of Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari to improve relations with the United States.
Presidency issues clarification
Later in the day, the President’s Secretariat clarified some of the points during the interview.
On the matter of the army chief’s appointment ahead of time, the clarification said: “What the president had said was that if the appointment of army chief takes place through the laid down procedure containing the formal approval of relevant institutions and offices. then he would have no objection to it.”
Furthermore, the clarification said it was “wrongly” attributed to the president that he had said the army had no constitutional role in the country, claiming that his statement was “taken out of context”.
“He said that the role of the army has been clearly defined under Articles 8(3)(a), 39, 243 to 245 and entry No. 1 and 2 of the Fourth Schedule of the Constitution, therefore, said news items have been reported out of context and are factually incorrect,” the clarification said.