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September 22, 2020

Creation of anarchy won’t be allowed: Don't drag Army in politics

Top Story

September 22, 2020

ISLAMABAD: The military leadership in a meeting with key parliamentarians last week advised them that the army should not be dragged into political rivalries, as it was not involved, directly or indirectly, in any political process.

The parliamentary leaders – representing the government and the opposition – included PML-N President Shahbaz Sharif, PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, Khawaja Asif, Sherry Rehman, Ahsan Iqbal, Maulana Asad Mehmood, Khalid Maqbool, Speaker National Assembly Asad Qaiser, Chairman Senate Sadiq Sanjrani, AJK Prime Minister Farooq Haider, Dr Jamal Deeni, Shah Mehmood Qureshi, Sheikh Rashid and others.

The military was represented by the Chief of the Army Staff (COAS) Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa and Director General Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) Lt Gen Faiz Hameed. The purpose of the meeting was to develop political consensus on making Gilgit-Baltistan a province, but other national issues like the Gilgit-Baltistan elections and National Accountability Bureau (NAB) also came under discussion.

According to the top military sources, it was emphasized during the meeting that the army would stand with the civilian government whenever the need arose. Gen Bajwa said the army was not interfering in electoral reforms or current legislation or problems related to the NAB, as it was the responsibility of the political leadership to work out such matters.

He said the army did not want to take the responsibility of elections, as controversies arose whenever elections were held in the past. However, he assured that troops would be detailed for security during the elections, especially in the troubled areas where a law and order situation might erupt. To this, an opposition leader said, “This is music to my ears.”

The military sources said it was left to the political parties to decide whether to give the status of province to Gilgit-Baltistan or some other status. However, it was emphasized that the National Action Plan (NAP) should be implemented on a fast track basis to ensure law and order in the country.

During the meeting, an opposition leader complained about derogatory statements of Prime Minister Imran Khan. Responding to him, Gen Bajwa said all politicians gave statements against each other and emphasized that the politicians should settle such matters among themselves and avoid dragging the army into such matters.

During a talk on the NAB, the military leadership made it clear if politicians wanted to change the NAB law, they should do it collectively. Gen Bajwa assured the political leadership that there was no threat to democracy and the system would continue unhindered and uninterrupted.

Talking to a private TV channel, Sheikh Rasheed said General Bajwa had told the opposition leaders that the army was not interested in interfering in the political affairs but it would not allow anybody to create anarchy in the country. He quoted Gen Bajwa as saying that the army would do what the present elected government would command, and if tomorrow the opposition came into power, it would stand with them.

Sheikh Rasheed said the COAS told JUI-F chief Fazlur Rehman’s son Asad that on the one hand they were against the legitimacy of the National Assembly, on the other hand his father was the presidential candidate from the same assembly. He said all the political parties in the meeting had agreed to make Gilgit-Baltistan as the fifth province, while the PML-N and PPP opined that GB should be made a province after the elections. Sheikh Rasheed said that the army chief informed the political leaders that elections were going to be held in Gilgit-Baltistan and politicians should make their own decisions and the army should not be involved in it. They were further conveyed that it would be the decision of the political leaders whether to make GB a province prior to the elections or afterwards.

Sheikh Rasheed said Nawaz Sharif had closed the chapter of his politics by challenging the state institutions. “His speech will sink Shahbaz Sharif’s boat and cause rift in the PML-N,” he added.

Sheikh Rasheed claimed that Shahbaz Sharif would decide on his future course of action by December. He alleged that Nawaz Sharif had decided to take asylum in London. Sheikh said the PPP would never tender resignations or quit the Sindh government.

Talking to another TV channel, Sheikh Rasheed said Gen Bajwa reminded PML-N leader Khawaja Asif that he had called him on the election night about rigging and he had assured him that there would be no rigging and then he won the elections. The key parliamentarians met the military leadership on September 16 on the latter's request to discuss the issue of Gilgit Baltistan and Kashmir, Sirajul Haq disclosed while talking to The News. Siraj said one opposition leader pointed out that such a meeting on issues of national importance should have been called by Prime Minister Imran Khan. It was lamented that the prime minister never sat with the opposition even to discuss issues of national importance.

Siraj said initially he was not going to attend the meeting because of his earlier commitments but later he agreed when he was told that Gilgit Baltistan and Kashmir issues would be discussed during the meeting.

Before attending the meeting, Siraj said he had spoken to the Kashmiri leadership. Siraj said he was sharing these details with The News only because Shaikh Rasheed had already disclosed news of the meeting to the media. He said the military leadership wanted to discuss the issue of giving constitutional status to Gilgit Baltistan (GB) as the people of the area had been demanding the same for many years now. During the meeting, a proposal was floated to declare GB a ‘provisional province’ until settlement of the Kashmir issue.

Siraj disclosed that the military leadership indicated that it was aware of Jamaat-e-Islami’s stance on the issue, whereas the PPP and PML-N insisted that the issue should be deferred and discussed after the forthcoming elections in GB so that it was not made into a political issue by any political party during the election campaign. Asked if politics were discussed in the meeting, he replied, “How is it possible that politicians should meet but not discuss politics?”