Former chief of army staff (COAS) General (r) Raheel Sharif has rubbished reports regarding him seeking an extension in his tenure as the top military commander, denying the claim by the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) that the party was being victimised for refusing him the same.
According to The News, the issue of the very popular former military bigwig recently cropped up again after former PML-N leader Lt Gen (r) Abdul Qadir Baloch said that he was told by then prime minister (PM) Nawaz Sharif that Gen (r) Sharif had repeatedly approached him to get an extension but to no avail.
Baloch, who was a SAFRON [ministry of states and frontier regions] minister during the PML-N’s tenure, recently parted ways with the party over its supreme leader Nawaz’s aggressive stance towards the military establishment, especially the incumbent army chief.
“It was a great disappointment for me as I had expected Raheel Sharif to retire gracefully like a true soldier,” he had said as several PML-N leaders also drew links between the reported civil-military tussle from ex-PM Nawaz’s government as well as Dawn Leaks and Panama Papers scandals.
According to reports, General (r) Sharif was contacted through Lt Gen (r) Amjad Shuaib, who quoted the former as saying that following a meeting with the then premier and other key PML-N leaders, when he was leaving the meeting room of the PM’s Office, he was approached by Shehbaz Sharif and Chaudhry Nisar.
Gen (r) Sharif told Lt Gen (r) Shuaib that Shehbaz and Nisar had said that they wanted to give him an extension. According to Lt Gen (r) Shoaib, the former army chief replied that he did not want an extension because he had already announced several months ago that he would not continue to stay in office after his three-year term.
According to Gen (r) Sharif, as narrated by Lt Gen (r) Shuaib, the PML-N leaders insisted that since he had performed well as the COAS, the country was still engaged in its fight against terrorism and there was a need to bring peace to Karachi, the government, therefore, wanted him to continue.
Lt Gen (r) Shuaib said that according to Gen (r) Sharif, when the army chief again showed his reluctance, he was offered the slot of field marshal, which he again declined as he was not interested in getting a post where he would become a mere figurehead with nothing to do. It is claimed that the PML-N leaders then told Gen (r) Sharif that the government would consider empowering the post of field marshal.
He told Gen (r) Shuaib that he had never on his own discussed any such issue with anyone.
The report quoted an informed PML-N leader as saying that Shehbaz and Nisar had even visited Nawaz in London, where he had gone for his open-heart surgery, to press for an extension fearing that otherwise martial law could be imposed. Even then, Nawaz is believed to have refused to give an extension.