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Army Met Parliamentary Leaders Before APC: Sheikh Rashid

by Newsweek Pakistan

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Railways minister publicizes contents of meeting opposition leaders claim was held in-camera

The Pakistan military’s leadership last week informed senior politicians during an informal meeting that the Army did not wish to be dragged into the parties’ political rivalries and was involved in any political process, claimed Railways Minister Sheikh Rashid in a slew of media appearances.

The minister said that in addition to both government and opposition lawmakers, Army chief Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa and Inter-Services Intelligence Director General Lt. Gen. Faiz Hameed also attended the Sept. 16 meeting, which was summoned to discuss the pace at which Gilgit-Baltistan should be granted provincial status.

“The Army will stand with the civilian government,” Rashid cited the Army chief as saying to parliamentary leaders. He said that the military leaders had also told civilians that the Army had no role to play in either electoral reforms or the National Accountability Bureau, and told them to resolve such issues amongst themselves.

Rashid also claimed that the Army chief had said “this process [democracy] cannot be derailed.” Speaking to media, some of the opposition leaders who attended the meeting said its contents were not to be publicly disclosed and questioned how Rashid could repeat statements conveyed in confidence.

The minister told media that the meeting’s stated intend was to discuss proposed changes to the constitutional status of Gilgit-Baltistan. He claimed the opposition had brought up other matters, including the military’s alleged interference in politics and allegations of persecution of its leaders on the pretext of accountability.

A military official aware of the meeting admitted the Army chief had said “he fully supported the government” but this had been misconstrued as him explicitly backing the incumbent setup and not continuity of the democratic process. He said Gen. Bajwa has stressed that no one would be allowed to create chaos in the country.

In his media conversations, Rashid also alleged that a PMLN leader—reportedly Ahsan Iqbal—had raised allegations of a political witch-hunt in the name of accountability and had been told by the Army chief that political leaders had picked both the NAB chief and the election commissioner. He reportedly told Iqbal that they should be more careful in choosing people for such important positions in future.

The matter of bureaucratic paralysis due to NAB actions was also raised, with the Army chief admitting that there was a lack of delivery.

Following the APC, on Monday, Gen. Bajwa also met Prime Minister Imran Khan to discuss “the country’s security situation.”

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