New Delhi/Islamabad: In an effort to restore his credibility with the Pakistan Army, Prime Minister Imran Khan has appointed former Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) chief Lt Gen. Asim Saleem Bajwa (Retd) as his new special assistant.
Bajwa will replace Firdous Ashiq Awan, Pakistan’s Science and Technology Minister Chaudhry Fawad Hussain announced on Twitter on Monday.
Sources in Islamabad said Khan’s relationship with the Army had soured over issues of governance especially related to distribution of relief during the Coronavirus-related lockdown. Army chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa, the most powerful person in Pakistan, sources said, has been dissatisfied with the overall performance of the Khan-led government, during the crisis.
Pakistan Army made it evident that it was unhappy with Khan, by deploying military for distribution of aid to civilians. They involved interior minister Ijaz Shah to facilitate the deployment, and not Prime Minister Khan.
Sources said Khan’s opposition to complete lockdown has not gone down well with the Army. The only person who fully supported Khan’s decision, sources said, was his special assistant for information Firdous Ashiq Awan at the time. The military has also blamed Khan’s special assistant for overseas Pakistanis, Zulfiqar Bukhari for the badly managed return and quarantine of Pakistanis from Iran. Khan’s adviser for health, Dr Zafar Mirza has been accused of smuggling face masks.
The deterioration in the Khan-Army relationship, sources said, necessitated the change. Sources said in order to consolidate his position, Khan also sacked Awan as federal information minister and replaced him with Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) leader Shibli Faraz.
With the appointment of Gen Bajwa as his special assistant for information, Khan has for now averted further strain in his relationship with the Army chief, sources said. Bajwa retired from the Army last year. He served as Southern command chief, ISPR (Pakistan Army’s propaganda wing) chief (2012-2016) and chairman of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor Authority before his retirement.