PTI chief says next govt should appoint a new army chief on merit as Nawaz and Zardari not qualified enough to make such appointment n Shows willingness to hold talks with political opponents if free, fair elections are announced n Claims govt has no plan to face the fallout of floods n PTI

can resign from provincial assemblies to force govt to announce early elections n Confirms his meeting with former US diplomat Robin Raphel.

ISLAMABAD    -   Chairman of the op­position Pakistan Teh­reek-e-Insaf (PTI) Im­ran Khan on Monday said that the appoint­ment of next Army Chief, which is due by the end of November, should be deferred for the time being till the new government, after the general elections, makes an appointment on this position.

The former prime minister also said he was ready to hold a di­alogue with his political opponents — the ruling parties — on all issues if they are ready for a free and fair elections. He further remarked that he was not anti-America and gave several clues that his confidence building talks with the US were underway.

In a private TV chan­nel interview with an­chorperson Kamran Khan yesterday, the op­position party chief in­directly hinted that ei­ther present Chief of Army Staff (COAS) Gen­eral Qamar Javed Bajwa should be given an ex­tension in his services for a short period of time or a legal provision could be searched out that he should continue till the appointment of his successor.

However, Khan avoid­ed directly answering the repeated questions of the anchorperson whether he is asking for the extension in services of incumbent COAS and only said that he did not know about 

 this and legal experts can tell better about this. “I have been told by lawyers that in the bet­ter interest of the country, a provision can be found out that the next government appoints the COAS,” he also said.

Former prime minister Khan said that free and fair elections should be held in the country and even if the present ruling coalition— the Pakistan dem­ocratic Movement (PDM)—wins the election, they should carry on and appoint the next Army Chief.

Appointed in 2016, COAS General Bajwa is set to retire in the last week of November after completing two succes­sive terms.

“Fresh elections will bring sta­bility to Pakistan and that is the only way to save the country from the looming threat of eco­nomic default,” he said. “As long as there is political instability in the country, there will be no economic stability.”

Explaining his earlier contro­versial statement about the ap­pointment of the next Army Chief, Khan said that he want­ed to say that such an important appointment should be based on merit. He said that Pakistan Muslim League-N (PML) supre­mo Nawaz Sharif and Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) leader Asif Ali Zardari were not qualified enough to make such appoint­ment as the former is a fugitive of court and the later is known corrupt. He said how a person sitting abroad can appoint COAS whose party – the PML-N — has fewer seats in the National As­sembly than the PTI.

The PTI chief argued that the incumbent coalition govern­ment had no solution to the problems of the country ex­cept holding elections. He al­leged that the government had no plan to face the fallout of the flood that will come in win­ter. He said that whosoever seizes power through the next elections would have to face a plethora of problems. “I don’t say that I have had some solu­tion (of these problems) but political stability is at the top number to bring the country out of the situation.”

He said that PTI could use the option to resign from the pro­vincial assemblies to force the government to announce ear­ly elections and they were con­sulting other options in this regard. Khan stressed that he could also bring the people on roads to lead a protest move­ment for the ouster of the gov­ernment but the country was facing difficult times.

About the dialogue with the political opponents, Khan said he would only hold talks with them if they were ready to hold free and fair elections. He said that he was demand­ing the elections to bring po­litical and economic stabili­ty; otherwise the country was fast moving towards economic default. “I fear the time if the situation slipped out of our hands,” he said, adding that then the country would take years to recover. He said that the economic default would cause another disaster after flood—a reason he was de­manding election.

He deplored that on one hand, the present rulers were invit­ing them to work together to steer the country out of this cri­sis and on the other side, they were being pushed to wall. He also cast doubts on the credi­bility of Chief Election Commis­sioner Sikandar Sultan Raja and said that his government had appointed him on the advice of the power establishment.

Khan also confirmed that he had recently met with former US diplomat Robin Raphel. “I have known her for a long time; she does not represent the US government but works for an American think tank.” The PTI chief underlined that he was not at all anti-American but wanted good relations with the world power on the basis of mutual respect. “I want that we should have dignified relations with the world,” he said. He added that his government had no tensions with the US till he embarked on a tour to Russia. He argued that if India could do trade with Russia and China despite being a strategic partner of the US, then why couldn’t they main­tain good relations with major powers simultaneously. “I am not against any country but it is my duty to protect the interests of my country.”