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Web Desk
September 24, 2020

DG ISPR backs reports of meetings between army chief, PML-N leader


Web Desk
Thu, Sep 24, 2020

Director-General Inter-Services Public Relations Maj Gen Babar Iftikhar on Wednesday backed reports that Chief of Army Staff Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa held meetings with PML-N leader Mohammad Zubair.

Talking to  a private news channel, the military media wing's spokesman said that a meeting took place towards the end of August during which the Director-General Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) Lt Gen Faiz Hameed was also present.

Another meeting took place on September 7 as well, said Maj Gen Iftikhar, adding that both meetings took place at Zubair's request.

The DG ISPR said that talk of PML-N supremo Nawaz Sharif and his daughter Maryam Nawaz also formed part of the discussion.

"The army chief made it very clear that legal matters must be resolved in the court, while political matters must be discussed in the parliament," he said.

Maj Gen Iftikhar said that it was also emphasised that the army must be kept away from all such matters.

Meanwhile, speaking on the matter, Muhammad Zubair dispelled any notion that the meetings were held at the behest of either Nawaz or Maryam.

"I have a certain position regarding the party [...] The first thing I said to him  (army chief) was that I have not come seeking relief for Nawaz Sharif or the party," said Zubair.

"I told him I have not come here for anyone," he added.

Zubair said he "thankfully has no cases filed against him".

The PML-N leader said that such meetings are meant to be "kept a secret", adding that he has a long-standing association with Gen Bajwa.

The development follows a denial earlier in the day by Maryam Nawaz of any representative of the PML-N meeting the army chief.

Railways minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed, however, refuted Maryam's claims, claiming there was not one but two meetings that took place between PML-N leaders and the top military brass.

'DG ISI said he thought I had come to ask for relief'

Speaking on Geo News' show 'Aaj Shahzeb Khanzada Kay Saath', Zubair claimed that the DG ISI was not present in the first meeting but was part of the second meeting between him and the army chief.

He said that when the meeting came to a close, Lt Gen Faiz Hameed got up and asked him "What are you asking?"

To which, Zubair claimed he responded by saying that he wasn't asking for anything. In response, the former Sindh governor claimed that the ISI chief said he thought Zubair had come "to ask for relief".

The PML-N leader said that he knew the army chief for the past 40 years ever since his school and college days. He said that it was a "personal and social" meeting between the two which is why he did not bother informing Maryam Nawaz or Nawaz Sharif that he had met the army chief.

Zubair said that he believed in civilian supremacy and that the army should not be involved in political affairs and neither should the army be involved in them.

The PML-N leader reiterated that the DG ISPR had not said that he had asked for relief from the army chief.

Civil-military huddle

A  larger meeting is reported to have taken place  last week between civil and military leadership, news of which emerged on Monday.

According to reports, parliamentary leaders were told that the army should not be dragged into parties' political rivalries, with military leaders conveying clearly that the army was “not involved, directly or indirectly, in any political process of the country”.

The meeting was attended by Chief of Army Staff Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa and Director-General of Inter Services Intelligence Lt Gen Faiz Hameed. Gilgit-Baltistan's administrative affairs were also on the meeting's agenda.

PML-N leader Khawaja Asif, appearing yesterday on Geo News programme "Aaj Shahzeb Khanzada Kay Sath", made several interesting revelations about what was discussed.

Asif said the leaders of all political parties with presence in the National Assembly and Senate had been invited to discuss Gilgit-Baltistan's future with the army chief.

"I can say this with authority [that] there was absolutely no conversation on the NAB," he said, referring to Pakistan's anti-graft watchdog, the National Accountability Bureau.

"Whoever reported this to the media is absolutely wrong," he said, adding, however, that the conversation had strayed from the main agenda — Gilgit-Baltistan — after PPP Senator Sherry Rehman complained that Prime Minister Imran Khan was not present at the meeting.

"That's when the conversation turned towards why the army has to interfere in political matters; basically because politicians concede that space — that's where it went," Asif recalled.

"After [that conversation], the prime minister's absence [from the meeting] becomes a sort of testament that if he had been there and had taken charge of the situation, then the army chief or the military would not have had to invite the parliamentary leaders to discuss the issue [of Gilgit Baltistan] and it could have been discussed somewhere within one of the parliamentary rooms.

"The army chief discussed a lot of things but I want to maintain the decorum of the meeting and do not wish to discuss them here as they are not for public consumption and I do not wish to present them with a political angle," Asif said.