ISLAMABAD: As Army Chief Gen. Qamar Bajwa’s retirement date approaches, the parties involved are already hard at work discussing possible solutions that they believe will best serve to protect their interests.
According to political sources, the next three days are critical, and feverish discussions are presently taking place in Rawalpindi, London, and Lahore.
The most important of these meetings was held on Tuesday at the General Headquarters in Rawalpindi, where the army’s corps commanders met. The meeting was presided over by Gen. Bajwa.
The monthly meeting at GHQ is where the senior brass discusses both professional and internal and external security matters. This meeting was critical due to the forthcoming army leadership transition and the talks around it both within and outside the organization, as well as the nation’s tumultuous political atmosphere.
Events are moving quickly, as seen by PM Sharif’s abrupt trip to London and the lack of an ISPR communiqué following the corps commanders’ meeting.
Despite numerous speculations, ISPR did not issue a media statement and has remained mum on the subject.
Because the corps commanders’ conference rarely results in an ISPR public release, the events of the next few days will be the only way to shed light on the decisions made.
Gen. Bajwa visited Peshawar on Wednesday as part of his farewell visits to the formations. He spoke with the officers and men of the Peshawar Corps while there. This shows that the general is sticking to his plan to leave on November 29.
According to several retired officers, in addition to debating the institutional procedure for selecting Gen. Bajwa’s successor, the commanders discussed the political atmosphere and the Pakistan Tehreek-i-criticism Insaf’s of some of the officers.
According to sources, the army wants a de-escalation with the PTI before the changeover so that the new chief may take office in relative peace. As a result, both sides are under pressure to agree on a date for the next elections, which might put an end to the PTI’s lengthy march and allow political parties to focus on other important issues.
President Arif Alvi is reported to be playing a crucial role in this ongoing push to break the political impasse after recently meeting with the military leadership. He also delivered the message to PTI Chairman Imran Khan on a visit to check on his health.
As he left Sharm el-Sheikh on Tuesday night, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif tweeted, “Off to Pakistan.” However, he changed his plans and opted to stay in Qatar before continuing on to London to see his older brother, Nawaz Sharif.
Only one of his personal staff members accompanied him to London; the rest of his entourage continued on to Islamabad.
The travel to London may help in determining some of the things that had been waiting for some time and required face-to-face discussions with senior Sharif and other important family members, a PML-N insider said.
One of these obstacles is the selection of the new army chief, as are concerns related to the impending elections, a strategy for dealing with the PTI, and rebuilding political capital.
According to reports, the elder Sharif is unlikely to yield and feels that Imran Khan’s ongoing struggle with the army, in the absence of an agreement on the election date, will cost the PTI political capital.
According to a political source, the Sharifs will debate these issues with their partners in the coming days.
Imran Khan, the PTI chairman, met with his closest confidantes in Lahore to discuss the backchannel with the army. According to a PTI source, Mr. Khan is clear that he will not compromise on anything, and the initiative is now with the government.