Defence minister says procedure to appoint COAS will be completed as per law n It is PM’s discretion to pick any name sent by Ministry of Defence n Next general elections to be held as per schedule n Our institutions should remain neutral.

ISLAMABAD    -     Defence Minister Khawaja Muhammad Asif said Wednesday that next general elections will be held as per schedule and the procedure with regard to appointment of Army Chief will be completed as per law and the Constitution. While talking to reporter here, he said that it is the discretion of the Prime Minister to pick any name forwarded by the Ministry of Defence. The Defence Minister said Armed Forces are the defenders of Pakistan’s frontiers and security. He said they are not meant for safe guarding interests of an individual. Khawaja Asif said we voted out Imran Khan from power through the no-confidence motion as per democratic process. He said Imran Khan, through his lies, is continuously misleading the nation. He said audio leaks of Imran Khan had exposed foreign-conspiracy mantra. The minister said it has been a long struggle of politicians that our institutions should remain neutral. He said it seems strange that Imran Khan uses inappropriate language against state institutions for staying neutral. He said at present the armed forces are fighting a low intensity war against terrorism and the entire nation should stand behind their security agencies. Khawaja Asif also said that the process of nomination of the new army chief is likely to begin at the end of this month or beginning of November. He said the statement from the COAS has removed ambiguity surrounding the matter. He said an outgoing chief should have time to interact with his troops. “In my view all the three-star Generals are eligible to become COAS, but the names from the GHQ have its own weightage,” the defence minister added. He said, no decision yet taken about who will be the Army Chief. A list of five names sent as per the norm, he said. “Anyone from these five can be appointed,” he told the media- persons. “In the past, anyone not from the five names, have also been appointed,” Asif said. Khawaja Asif said, “We struggled in four tenures of dictatorships to make the institutions neutral.” “I have a defence portfolio and it is my duty to defend the institution when a campaign is launched against the military,” he said. “We don’t want any action, which provides relief but an action with no place for any relief,” Asif said as he referred to the possible action against PTI chief Imran Khan. “Government is a passing matter, solidarity of institutions is important,” he stressed. Replying to a question he said, “I don’t know who are accompanying the army chief in the US visit.” Khawaja Asif claimed the former premier Imran Khan sent a message through President Arif Alvi to initiate discussions with the ‘establishment’. The minister said the PTI chief was losing his nerves as November and the much talked about appointment of a new army chief draws closer. “Imran Khan has not been in his right mind and is fearful as November is fast approaching,” said Asif, adding that things will move forward according to the law and Constitution in November. Asif went on to add that the Chief of the Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa’s tenure is concluding by the end of this month. The defence minister reiterated that the government has yet to decide on General Bajwa’s replacement. He also said that general elections will be held as per schedule. He said Imran Khan is not a political worker or politician thus he is lacking tolerance. “Politicians when deprived of power don’t use this language. We are political workers and have some traditions,” Asif said. He said Imran Khan should be ashamed of himself after audio leaks that have exposed his narrative of foreign conspiracy. ‘We do not want any relief for Imran Khan. We will not seek political revenge, but this person is not a politician from any side. We are aware of the traditions of political workers,” he pointed out. “We will fight Imran Khan on social media, and we will take him to the courts too. I have not heard the audio leaks of Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif myself. But there is no anti-state element in his talk. In the audio leaks of Imran Khan, there is a conspiracy against Pakistan,” he claimed. He said Imran Khan is constantly trying to portray lies as truth. “Imran Khan hurls abuses at his friends. Imran Khan himself scrapped the copy of the cipher,” he lamented. He said institutions are working in the light of the Constitution which is not acceptable to Imran Khan. He is turning mad for November. “The month of November will also pass peacefully,” he hoped.