Islamabad, December 5, 2022: U.S. Ambassador Donald Blome joined Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif at Mangla Hydro Power Station today to celebrate the completion of a $150 Million U.S.-funded project to refurbish and improve the station’s power generation capacity. The project adds 300 megawatts of additional power to the station’s capacity, enough to provide power to 100,000 households and 2 million Pakistanis. The U.S.-funded project in collaboration with private firms and the Pakistan Water and Power Development Authority (WAPDA) is the latest project in a long history of U.S. assistance to help Pakistan develop clean, renewable energy.
“This project builds upon the foundational partnership of the original construction. We are proud of our enduring efforts to help extend Mangla Dam’s useful service as a reliable source of clean energy and irrigation water,” said Ambassador Blome. “When Mangla Dam was built in the 1960s by U.S. engineering firms, it was one of the largest earth-filled dams in the world. Not only is it an impressive achievement in engineering, it is also an excellent example of the Green Alliance between the United States and Pakistan.”
The United States invested in Pakistan’s electrification more than 50 years ago, constructing dams and hydropower plants that continue to provide reliable, efficient, and clean energy today. These projects dramatically increased Pakistan’s electricity capacity – today powering the homes of more than 50 million people. The dams also help to prevent catastrophic water shortages, mitigate the effects of flooding and expand agricultural productivity. The Mangla and Tarbela Dams alone can store about 10 percent of the water passing through Pakistan. Gomal Zam Dam irrigation doubled agricultural output in the surrounding area, providing food and economic opportunities to thousands of people, and helped save lives and livelihoods during the recent flooding.
After weeks of intense speculation and rumours, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif on Thursday chose Lt Gen Asim Munir as the new chief of army staff (COAS).
Information Minister Marriyum Aurangzeb made the announcement on Twitter, saying the premier had made the choice while exercising his constitutional authority. She further said that Lt Gen Sahir Shamshad Mirza had been picked as the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee (CJCSC).
PM picks Lt Gen Asim Munir as new COAS and Lt Gen Sahir Shamshad Mirza as CJCSC
Information minister says summary for appointments has been sent for president’s approval
Defence minister hopes president will not make the appointments “controversial”
PTI chief Imran Khan says “I and the president of Pakistan will act according to the Constitution and laws” after the summary is received
Outgoing CJCSC General Nadeem Raza holds farewell meetings with president and PM
The Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee is an inter-services forum that works for coordination among the three armed forces. The CJCSC also serves as the principal military adviser to the prime minister and the National Command Authority.
She went on to say that a summary of the same had been sent to President Arif Alvi.
Speaking to the media minutes after the announcement was made, Defence Minister Khawaja Asif said the matter had been decided according to the law and the Constitution, calling on the nation to refrain from viewing it through a “political lens”.
He expressed the hope that the president would not make the appointments “controversial” and would endorse the advice of the premier.
The defence minister reiterated that the president should endorse the premier’s advice so that a “controversy may not arise”. “This will also help our country and the economy to get on track. Currently, everything is at a standstill.”
He expressed the same in a tweet, saying that the advice had been forwarded to the president. He went on to say that it would now be a test for former premier Imran Khan where he could either strengthen the institution responsible for defending the country or make it controversial.
“This is also a test for President Alvi, whether he will follow political advice or the constitutional and legal advice,” he said. “As the Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, it is his duty to protect the country from political conflicts,” he said about Alvi.
Imran to consult with Alvi
Meanwhile, PTI’s official account quoted Imran Khan as saying “when the summary comes, I and the president of Pakistan will act according to the Constitution and laws”.
His statement comes a day after Imran claimed President Alvi would “definitely” consult him as soon as the summary for the appointment of next army chief reaches his office.
“President Alvi will definitely consult me on the summary for the appointment of army chief and take a decision as per the law and Constitution. I am head of the party that Dr Alvi belongs to,” he remarked while speaking to journalists at his Zaman Park residence on Wednesday.
Outgoing CJCSC calls on Alvi, Shehbaz for farewell meetings
Outgoing CJCSC General Nadeem Raza held farewell meetings with President Alvi and PM Shehbaz.
A statement from Aiwan-i-Sadr said Gen Raza called on President Alvi in a farewell meeting.
“The president appreciated the services of General Nadeem Raza for national defence,” it said. “The president expressed his best wishes for Gen Raza.”
Separately, the PML-N tweeted a video of Gen Raza meeting PM Shehbaz at the PM House. “The prime minister paid tribute to Gen Raza for strengthening the defence of the country and for his services to the army.”
COAS appointment saga
Outgoing COAS Qamar Javed Bajwa was originally supposed to retire in 2019. However, his tenure was extended for three years by then-prime minister Imran Khan in Aug 2019, just three months before he was set to retire.
Despite speculation about him seeking another extension, Bajwa had indicated several months ago that he planned to retire this year.
His retirement plan was later confirmed by the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) on at least a couple of occasions and the general had himself in the last few months twice made it clear that he had no intentions to carry on — once during his visit to the United States and then again, while speaking at the National Security Workshop at National Defence University.
The next army chief’s appointment is at times mentioned as one of the major subplots in the ongoing political crisis engulfing the country which began earlier this year following the tabling of a no-trust motion against Imran.
Doubts about Bajwa’s retirement plan had been so strong that Imran, when faced with the vote of no-confidence, suspected that the political move against him was linked to Gen Bajwa’s impending retirement. He had, therefore, offered an indefinite extension to Gen Bajwa in a bid to pre-empt the then opposition’s vote against him, as per a recent presser by senior military officials.
Gen Bajwa started his farewell visits to formations on Nov 1 with a visit to the Army Air Defence Command and followed up the next day with a visit to Armed Forces Strategic Forces Command. Since then, he quietly toured a number of formations.
In a farewell address, Gen Bajwa acknowledged that the military received criticism for “unconstitutionally interfering in politics”, and at the same time criticised political parties for erring and being intolerant towards rivals.
He also called on political stakeholders to reflect on their attitudes as the “army had started its catharsis” as he emphasised the need for the restoration of political stability.
Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa, in what was likely his final public address as the army chief on Wednesday, criticised the anti-military narrative and urged political stakeholders to move forward for the country’s sake.
The army chief made these remarks during his speech at the Defence and Martyrs day ceremony, which is held annually at the General Headquarters (GHQ) Rawalpindi on September 6 to commemorate the sacrifices of fallen heroes of the 1965 war. However, it was postponed this year in solidarity with flood victims across the country and rescheduled for today.
“Today, I am addressing the Defence and Martyrs Day as the army chief for the last time,” Gen Bajwa, who is set to retire by the end of the month, said at the start of his speech. “I am retiring soon. This time, this [ceremony is being held] after some delay.”
He dedicated a major portion of his speech to political matters, saying that he often wondered that the Indian army did the most human rights violations in the world but “their people seldom make them the target of criticism”.
“In contrast to that, our army which day and night remains busy in serving the nation is often made the subject of criticism,” he said. “A major reason for this is the army’s interference in politics for the last 70 years which is unconstitutional.
“This is why in February last year the army, after great deliberation, decided that it would never interfere in any political matter. I assure you we are strictly adamant on this and will remain so.”
‘False narrative was created, from which an escape is now sought’
The army chief said that instead of welcoming the military’s decision, “many sectors used very inappropriate and undignified language while making the army the target of severe criticism.”
“To criticise the army is the right of [political] parties and the people, but the language used [should be careful],” he said.
Gen Bajwa said that a “false narrative was created”, from which “an escape is now being attempted”.
He said the army had initiated its process of “catharsis” and expected that political parties would follow suit as well and reflect on their behaviour. “This is the reality that there have been mistakes from every institution, including political parties and civil society.”
The COAS said that lessons should be learned from such mistakes so the nation could move forward.
‘Time’s come for political stakeholders to set aside ego, move forward’
Gen Bajwa said the country was facing “serious economic” issues and no one party could take the country out of the financial crisis.
“Political stability is mandatory and the time has come for all political stakeholders to set aside their ego, learn from past mistakes, move forward and take Pakistan out of this crisis.”
He stressed the need for the nation to shed intolerance and adopt a “true democratic culture”.
Gen Bajwa rued the political parties’ criticism, first after the 2018 general elections and then again following the successful vote of no confidence this year, recalling that whoever lost branded the other as either “selected” or “imported”.
“We need to reject this behaviour,” he said. “Victory and defeat are part of politics and every party will have to develop the strength to accept its victory as well as defeat so an elected government comes in the next election instead of an imported or selected one.”
He said that if Pakistan wanted to move forward then it would need to shun intolerance and the attitude of “I don’t accept”.
The COAS lauded the sacrifices of martyrs and praised their families, saying that the army would “continue to serve and protect the country”.
At the onset of the event, a tribute video was played about the recent catastrophic floods in the country and the scale of destruction they caused. The video also showcased the military’s rescue, relief and rehabilitation efforts.
‘East Pakistan was a political failure, not military one’
Gen Bajwa also discussed the army’s performance and actions in Bangladesh during the 1971 civil war, which said were topics that most people avoided.
“I want to correct some facts here. Firstly, former East Pakistan was a political failure and not a military one,” he said.
He said the number of soldiers fighting was not 92,000 but 34,000 and the others were in different government departs. He added that these 34,000 soldiers were confronted by an Indian army of 250,000 soldiers and 200,000 members of the Mukti Bahini.
“Against these heavy odds, our army fought bravely and gave exemplary sacrifices which were acknowledged by Indian army chief field marshal Manekshaw.”
He said the nation had yet not owned up to these sacrifices which was a “great injustice”. “Taking advantage of this occasion I salute these martyrs and will continue to do so. They are our heroes and the nation should be proud of them,” Bajwa added.
Gen Bajwa will be retiring by the end of the month after commanding the army for six years. He was appointed army chief in 2016 for a three-year tenure, which was extended by three years in after parliament legislated on the tenures of services chiefs on the orders of the Supreme Court.
The Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) on Wednesday morning confirmed that it had received the summary from the Ministry of Defence with a “panel of names” for the appointment of the new chief of army staff (COAS) and the chairman joint chief of staff committee (CJCSC).
“The prime minister will take a decision on the appointments as per the laid down procedure,” the early morning statement said.
Defense Minister Khawaja Asif tweeted the same late on Tuesday night, saying that the summary had been forwarded to the PMO from the defense ministry. “The rest of the steps will be completed soon,” he said.
The development comes hours after the military confirmed that it had dispatched the summary to the defense ministry.
Although multiple ministers spent Tuesday denying the impression that the summary had been received by the PMO, the brief missive from Inter-Services Public Relations simply stated: “GHQ has forwarded the summary for selection of CJCSC and COAS, containing names of 6 senior most Lt Gens, to MoD.”
Although the communique did not mention which six names have been forwarded, it is believed that the six men currently in the running to be the next chief of army staff are (in order of seniority) Lt Gen Asim Munir (currently Quarter Master General), Lt Gen Sahir Shamshad Mirza (Commander 10 Corps), Lt Gen Azhar Abbas (Chief of General Staff), Lt Gen Nauman Mehmood (NDU President), Lt Gen Faiz Hamid (Commander Bahawalpur Corps), and Lt Gen Mohammad Amir (Commander Gujranwala Corps).
Earlier, participating in a TV talk show, the defence minister said there were no differences between the army and government and the concerns being expressed by various quarters in that regard were unfounded.
A day earlier, several PML-N leaders, including former prime minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi and Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah, had indicated that the army was impeding the process.
But the defence minister said he had conveyed to Abbasi that his concerns would be allayed.
Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif is, moreover, expected to hold a consultation with outgoing army chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa on Thursday on the selection of his successor. It is a convention that the prime minister holds this discussion with the outgoing chief, however, it is described as “informal consultation”.
A special meeting of the federal cabinet has also been convened for Thursday to deliberate on the appointments. The government had earlier planned to complete the process by Friday.
The prime minister would after making the choice advise President Arif Alvi to appoint the general as the next army chief. It remains to be seen if the president would agree with the advice or send it back for reconsideration.
The biennial International Defence Exhibition and Seminar (IDEAS) 2022 commenced at the Expo Center in Karachi on Tuesday after a gap of four years — a delay caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.
IDEAS is a defence exhibition which brings together the defence industry’s players across the globe to showcase the latest technological innovations.
Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari inaugurated the 11th edition of the exhibition, which will continue till Friday.
The previous defence exhibition held at the same venue was in 2018. As is the tradition of the usually biannual event since the year 2000, IDEAS 2022 will showcase a number of splendid activities encompassing the world’s advanced defence technology demonstrations, international seminars, the IDEAS Karachi Show, networking, and business expansions through Business-to-Business and Business-to-Government engagements.
Addressing the ceremony, Bilawal welcomed all guests to the “special edition of innovation and excellence”.
He remarked that the incumbent government inherited an economic catastrophe as Pakistan was on the precipice of default, however, he credited the concerted efforts from the coalition “for the unity that helped the economy” survive an imminent danger.
According to Radio Pakistan, Federal Minister for Defence Production Israr Tareen, Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah and civil and military officials attended the inaugural ceremony.
Around 300 exhibitors from 32 countries display their latest and innovative products while more than 500 national and international delegates are taking part in the exhibition, the state-run radio service reported.
Apart from the six halls of the expo centre, three marquees have also been set up, one of which has been named after Kashmir.
The 10th edition of IDEAS in 2018 had some 45 countries exhibiting their products and this year that number has grown to 64.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif tweeted that the IDEAS had evolved into a platform that highlighted Pakistan’s growing footprint in the global defence market.
“Arms for Peace, theme of IDEAS’22, reflects Pakistan’s desire for peace & stability. Good to see that our defence sector is catering to demands of tech era,” he said.
Earlier, Dawnquoted Brigadier Naveed Azam Cheema as saying that it was a challenge to hold the mega defence show after the devastation caused due to the floods here but the exhibition also helps Pakistan’s economy. He thanked the GHQ and federal and provincial governments for supporting DEPO.
Brig Cheema said that IDEAS 2022 had surpassed all previous milestones in terms of space, booking, exhibitors and delegates both domestic and foreign.
“The Karachi Expo Centre has been booked to its full capacity with more than 500 exhibitors from Turkiye, China, North America, South America, Europe, Asia and the Far East out of which 60 per cent are international and 40pc local. Besides trade visitors, more than 285 high-level delegates from 64 countries are visiting the exhibition,” he had said.
Although Russia will not be attending IDEAS 2022 as an exhibitor this time, they will still have a presence in the form of a delegation. Meanwhile, there are new entrants from several European countries including Austria, Romania and Hungary.