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Pakistan

Govt hints at naming new COAS next week

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ISLAMBAD:

The formal process to appoint the next army chief is set to kick off “very shortly” as Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, who otherwise spends his weekends in Lahore, stayed in the federal capital to make the imminent decision.

Defence Minister Khawaja Asif told a private TV news channel that the process for the appointment of the new Chief of Army Staff (COAS) would start on Monday.

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However, Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah said the new army chief would be announced in the next couple of days.

The conflicting statements being given by the two ministers suggest that the government is under serious stress, as some observers are of the view that this may indicate a possible deadlock between the civil and military authorities on the selection of the next army chief.

With all eyes on the prime minister, official sources said “closed door consultations” were under way in the corridors of power to develop a consensus among the stakeholders for the key appointment.

The process, the sources added, for the appointment would begin “very shortly”. However, they did not elaborate if the decision was imminent on Friday night or within the next couple of days.

Some sources claimed the Prime Minister’s Office might announce the appointment of a new army chief within 24 hours.

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Although the appointment of the army chief is the sole prerogative of the prime minister, the coalition government is keen to consult all stakeholders before a final decision is made.

The move is aimed at reaching a broader consensus among the key stakeholders so that the decision serves the interests of the institution and the country.

Hectic political activities were witnessed in Islamabad in the last couple of days with Finance Minister Ishaq Dar holding a series of meetings, including with President Arif Alvi; PPP co-chairperson and former president Asif Ali Zardari; and JUI-F chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman in what appeared to be part of efforts aimed at ensuring smooth transition in the army command.

Dar’s meeting with Alvi on Friday was seen as significant, as the summary of the army chief’s appointment had to be signed by the president. There are rumours that the president, who happens to be a PTI leader, may block the summary at the behest of his party chief, Imran Khan.

The finance minister met the president and the leaders of coalition partners on behalf of PML-N supremo Nawaz Sharif and Prime Minister Shehbaz, who could not meet them in person after being diagnosed with Covid-19.

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While Dar had a busy day, the focus was also on the defence ministry, which has to send a summary containing eligible candidates for the posts of the army chief and chairman joint chiefs of staff committee to the Prime Minister’s Office.

The sources said the government had called back the defence secretary, who was abroad, to start the process.

The summary is likely to carry names of the five senior-most generals. Traditionally, the prime minister holds consultations with the outgoing army chief on the new appointment. However, the outgoing army chief’s advice is not binding on the prime minister.

In 2013 and 2016, then prime minister Nawaz Sharif had ignored the advice of the outgoing army chiefs.

There is one difference this time though that the political situation is volatile and the PML-N does not have its man at the Presidency.

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In the past, the opposition has never raised any questions about the appointment of the new army chief. However, the current opposition leader Imran is taking a keen interest in the matter.

In fact, many observers believe that one of the main objectives of the PTI chief’s long march is to influence the appointment of the new chief.

Against this backdrop, there are concerns that the Presidency may resort to a mischief.

Because of these apprehensions, the PML-N-led government geared up its efforts to smoothly appoint the next military chief.

Dar called on President Alvi a day after he met Zardari and Fazl.

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Zardari issued a statement on the military chief’s appointment while the JUI-F chief called on PM Shehbaz despite the latter being in quarantine.

Sources in the ruling alliance said the finance minister and the president discussed the prevailing political situation and the key appointment, observing that there should not be a deadlock on constitutional and legal issues.
Soon after Dar’s meeting with Alvi, Senate Chairman Sadiq Sanjrani also called on the president.

The flurry of meetings in the last couple of days suggests that the ruling coalition has accelerated its efforts to end any possible deadlock on the appointment of the new military czar.

The ruling alliance also deliberated on the PTI’s long march, which is expected to converge soon in the twin cities with the demand of snap polls.

Although PTI chief Imran has announced that he had stepped back from the issue of the military chief’s appointment, the recent meetings had taken place against the backdrop of the concerns being expressed that the president might block the government’s decision when the summary was finally sent by PM Shehbaz to Alvi for approval.

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The apprehensions were strengthened when PTI leader Fawad Chaudhry tweeted that President Alvi would fulfill his constitutional responsibilities in connection with army chief’s appointment.

“It should be clarified that whatever steps the president takes will have the full backing of Imran Khan,” Fawad wrote.

Despite announcing that he no longer had any interest in the new COAS’ appointment, Imran once again spoke on the issue in an informal chat with journalists in Lahore by saying that Nawaz wanted to appoint an army chief, who would disqualify the PTI chief from politics.

Zardari issued a statement, saying that all three-star generals were equal and fully qualified to head the army.

However, the PPP co-chairperson said the politicisation of the issue should be avoided at all costs as it would harm the institution.

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The discussion over the army chief’s appointment also compelled the JUI-F chief to rush to meet PM Shehbaz, who contracted Covid-19 right after returning from London and is currently quarantined.

The official press release issued after the meeting between Dar and Alvi stated that the minister briefed the president on the overall economic and financial outlook of the country.

It added that the financial czar also briefed the president on various steps taken by the government to provide relief to the people, especially to the unprivileged population of the underserved areas of the country as well as the flood-affected people.

It also read that the two men also discussed various matters concerning finance and the economy.





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Pakistan

Imran’s right of defence struck out in defamation case

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ISLAMABAD:

Additional District Judge Lahore Chaudhry Muhammad Asif struck out the right of defence of former prime minister since concerned interrogatories of the plaintiff were not submitted on Thursday.

“This court has been left with no option except to strike out the right of defence of the defendant (Imran Khan) in this case due to non-submission of requisite replies by the defendant regarding concerned interrogatories of the plaintiff. So, the right of defence of the defendant is hereby struck out in this case accordingly,” the order stated.

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The court asked the plaintiff to submit a list of witnesses on November 29.

It has been learned that the court has so far conducted 78 hearings of the case.

The order stated that the counsel for the defendant submitted an application for adjournment on the ground that the defendant was going to file a revised petition against the order of the court regarding the dismissal of concerned objections of the defendant.

Also read: ‘No objections’ to Imran’s helicopter landing at Parade Ground: GHQ

“From the perusal of record, it reveals that various reasonable opportunities have been provided to defendant to submit the requisite replies to concerned interrogatories of the plaintiff but the defendant has not done the needful,” it stated.

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“Vide previous order dated 17.11.2022, one more opportunity was granted to the defendant in this regard with the clarification that in case of submission of requisite replies from the defendant’s side regarding concerned interrogatories of the plaintiff on the next date, the right of defence of the defendant shall be struck out. No lawful justification exits for the grant of further adjournment,” it added.

The court rejected the adjournment plea of Imran’s counsel.

According to details, the defamation suit states that Imran started uttering false and malicious statements against the plaintiff (Shehbaz) that the latter offered Rs10 billion to the former through a common friend in exchange of withdrawing the case of Panama Papers pending before the Supreme Court (SC).

Also read: President Alvi in Lahore to consult Imran over COAS appointment

​​​It pleads that the baseless and defamatory statements by the defendant widely circulated by media lowered the integrity of the plaintiff and caused him extreme mental torture, agony and anxiety. The court has been requested to issue a decree for recovery of Rs 10 billion as compensation for the publication of defamatory content in favour of the plaintiff.

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In his written statement, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) chief states that one of his friends told him that someone known to him and also the Sharif family approached him with an offer to pay billions of rupees if he could convince him to stop pursuing the Panama Papers case.

Imran says that he disclosed the incident for the consumption of the public at large and in the interest of the public good does not constitute any defamation.





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Pakistan to send armed helicopter unit to UN peacekeeping mission

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UNITED NATIONS:

Pakistan and Bangladesh will each be sending an armed helicopter unit to the UN peacekeeping operations in Mali, which faces serious problems as several countries have withdrawn or announced plans to pull out their personnel, a UN spokesperson said on Wednesday.

Spokesman Farhan Haq said that India will supply a utility helicopter unit to the Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali, known as MINUSMA, and all three are expected to be deployed by March next year.

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“These provide much-needed support to our forces and are critical for early warning and rapid response to protect civilians,” the spokesman told reporters at the regular noon briefing at the UN headquarters in New York.

“The UN continues to discuss with member states the deployment of new assets and plans to fill longer-standing gaps in addition to those resulting from recent announcements” of withdrawals, he said.

Set up in 2013, MINUSMA has 17,622 personnel helping the Malian government combat terrorists operating in the country.

MINUSMA is one of the deadliest operations having claimed the lives of 292 peacekeepers.

France completed its withdrawal earlier this year and it was followed by Egypt in August.

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Germany said that it was withdrawing its personnel, who numbered 595 in the latest UN roster, from MINUSMA by May next year.

Also read: Who is country’s new army chief Asim Munir?

Britain is also pulling out its 249 personnel.

Ivory Coast also said that it would discontinue the participation of its personnel, who numbered 898, in MINUSMA when the current deployment ends because of a separate dispute with the Mali government over the arrest of its soldiers who went there on a mission unconnected to the UN.

Despite the dangerous nature of the Minusma, Pakistani military doctors serving in Mopti, a town in the fifth administrative region of Mali. have continued to serve, earning praise for their work. They operate a state-of-the-art hospital staffed with 75 medical personnel, including 10 women and 65 men, according to the UN.

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The hospital operates 24 hours a day, every day, and they are always on alert. All specialities are covered, from pharmacy to gynaecology. However, its main purpose is to perform life-saving and urgent surgery when peacekeepers are injured, it was pointed out.





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Imran urges ‘all Pakistanis to participate’ in PTI long march

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Former prime minister and PTI Chairman Imran Khan on Thursday urged all Pakistanis to participate in his party’s much-hyped long march on Saturday (Nov26) in what appears to be his final showdown with the incumbent government to force it to announce early election date.

“Dear Pakistanis, I want all of you to participate in our haqeeqi long march in Pindi at 1pm on Saturday,” he said in a short video statement.

Imran, who was removed from power through a vote of no confidence in April, said that only a nation which has justice in it will get real freedom. “When there is justice, there are rights. When there are rights, a nation is free. Only an independent nation is prosperous,” he went on to say.

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Read more: Interior ministry warns PTI of threats, urges postponing Pindi march

The former premier said that the nation will not stay silent until it gets real freedom. “I am coming for you despite my [health] condition and all of you need to come to Pindi for me,” he concluded.

Meanwhile, senior PTI leader Asad Umar presided over a meeting regarding the party’s preparation for the long march in Rawalpindi. Senior PTI leadership including Umar Ayub, Shibli Faraz, Ali Nawaz and others participated in the meeting.

The meeting discussed the overall preparations for the long march in Rawalpindi. The security plan, long march route and other significant matters came under discussion during the meeting.

The meeting was briefed that a caravan had left from Karachi for Rawalpindi whereas two others were ready to begin their journey to the garrison city from Quetta and Gilgit-Baltistan.

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A briefing was also given in the meeting regarding the accommodation of the participants.

Issues regarding the provision of all basic needs including food and accommodation to the participants of the march were also discussed in the meeting.

“The nation is fully united and eager to achieve real freedom,” Umar said, adding that the party would welcome caravans from all over Pakistan in Rawalpindi.

“The captain [Imran Khan] will lead the ocean of people in Rawalpindi on November 26,” he further said.





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