Imran Khan did not ask for COAS’s extension in Dunya News interview
News media misinterprets Imran Khan’s statement about COAS appointment
Claim: Imran Khan pleads for Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Qamar Jawed Bajwa’s tenure extension in his interview with journalist Kamran Khan on Dunya News.
Fact: Imran Khan did not plead for General Bajwa’s tenure extension.
On 12 September 2022, Former Prime Minister Imran Khan appeared in ‘Dunya Kamran Khan Kay Saath’, a talk show on Dunya News hosted by Kamran Khan. In the interview, Khan stated that he was ready to negotiate with the sitting governments, but only if they agreed to be open to early elections.
He stressed the importance of selecting an army chief based on merit. He claimed the Sharifs and Zardaris do not have the merit to appoint an army chief, however, if the people elect them, then they should be free to appoint the next army chief.
Fact or Fiction?
Before airing the interview on Dunya News, Kamran Khan released a video clip on social media summarising the topics discussed in the interview. The caption reads, “Breakthrough Q&A with Imran Khan. Gen Bajwa be given extension till the next elected Govt appoints new COAS; Ready for talks with Govt on elections; Confidence building talks with U.S former PM will join me at DKKKS tonight at 9:30”.
In the clip, Kamran Khan also reiterated that upon asking, Imran Khan agreed that the army chief’s retirement can, and should be deferred. This statement went viral, confusing the public given that it goes against Imran Khan’s previous calls against Bajwa. Nadeem Farooq Paracha, for example, shared the news with the caption “One day IK will run out of U’s to turn.”
Upon reviewing the full-length interview, Soch Fact Check found that Imran Khan did not state that COAS Qamar Jawed Bajwa should be given an extension. Kamran Khan brought up the question of appointing the next army chief multiple times. The first time, he inquired, given that Bajwa is expected to retire in November, and it is the sitting government’s job to appoint the next COAS, would it not follow that the PDM government should appoint the COAS from the pool of Lt Generals? Imran Khan responded with a statement about the importance of meritocracy. He argued that only those nations who follow and prioritize meritocracy in their institutions succeed. He stressed that the appointment of the next COAS should be on the based on merit. Further, he argued that neither Asif Ali Zardari nor Nawaz Sharif is qualified for merit themselves, nor appointing a new chief based on merit; their priority is to choose a COAS who will help protect their economic interests, not who is most capable of serving the country. He also stressed the narrative that the current government has come into power through a foreign conspiracy; they will only be qualified based on merit if the people democratically elected them.
Kamran Khan followed up, asking that since elections cannot be held before ninety days given legal provisions, what should be the case when General Bajwa retires in November? Imran Khan responded that a provision can be made stating that the newly elected government will appoint the new COAS. He claims he has consulted lawyers that have told him the same.
Imran Khan did not directly respond to any statement about General Bajwa, neither did he state that an extension or deferral should be granted. Kamran Khan then explicitly asked him if an extension should be granted to General Bajwa until the next election, to which Imran Khan responded, “I have not thought about this in detail”, to which Kamran Khan interrupted him once again asking the same question. Kamran Khan then says, “The law states that the government in power appoints the next COAS, you are arguing that the new elected government should appoint the COAS, but since General Bajwa is expected to retire in November, you are asking that his tenure be extended, is that right?”
Imran Khan did not confirm this statement but diverted his answer to argue that he does not know what legal and constitutional experts say about this. He states that the country is going through extraordinary circumstances and we must focus on how to bring it back from these circumstances. Thus, Kamran Khan’s premature clip advertising that the Former PM pleaded for the extension of the COAS is misleading. Imran Khan clarified in a later response that he did not comment on the current COAS tenure, but only that the next COAS appointment be delayed. Several news channels and websites have reported on the clarification.
Former Federal Minister of Human Rights under PTI, Shireen Mazari also called out Kamran Khan for misquoting Imran Khan. She quote tweeted a video from the official PTI account writing, “What Khan actually said on army chief & what @AajKamranKhan & PMLN trolls delib tried to misquote. Problem here is when anchor wants to assert his own view/agenda despite IK making his position clear on same issue. Such anchors shd do monologues instead! #IStandWithImranKhan”.
Soch Fact Check conducted a CrowdTangle analysis for the 7-day period from 9 to 16 September using the search term “COAS extension”. The search term turned up 24,971 interactions across 162 posts. Kamran Khan’s video clip received 1,500 reactions and 11,000 views. It was shared on Twitter here, here.
Conclusion: Imran Khan did not say COAS Qamar Jawed Bajwa’s term can and should be extended. He only argued that the new COAS appointment could be deferred until it can be done on the basis of merit.