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Nawaz Sharif Bars PMLN From Secret Meetings With Armed Forces

by Newsweek Pakistan

File photo. Tolga Akmen—AFP

Former prime minister says any future meetings will require permission of party leadership and would not be kept secret

Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) leader Nawaz Sharif on Thursday announced that he had barred all members of his political party from meeting any representatives of the military and related agencies “at individual, party or personal level.”

Announced via his social media accounts, the decision appears to be aimed at dispelling criticism of the PMLN following the military’s confirmation that a senior leader had privately met the Army chief in the past 30 days, as well as a “secret” meeting on Gilgit-Baltistan that was attended by several parliamentary leaders of all political parties. During the all-party conference on Sept. 20, Sharif had come out swinging against the armed forces’ interference in Pakistan’s political process, and his party members’ secret meetings with military brass have raised questions over whether or not he is merely angling for a “deal.”

“Recent events prove once again how some meetings are hidden behind seven curtains and how some are advertised and given the meaning of will,” he said in his post. “This game should be stopped now. Today I am instructing my party that in future no member of our party will meet the representatives of military and related agencies at individual, party or personal level,” he said, adding that this was in line with constitutional requirements and would serve to remind the “armed forces to abide by their oath.”

He said that if any such meeting was organized in future “for constitutional requirements,” then it would be declared with the party leadership’s approval and would “not be kept secret.”

Army wants to stay out

Sharif’s statement comes after Maj. Gen Babar Iftikhar, the director-general of the Inter-Services Public Relations, had confirmed to media that former Sindh governor and PMLN leader Mohammad Zubair had twice met Army chief Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa and discussed both Nawaz Sharif and his daughter Maryam Nawaz. In response, Zubair has said that he never sought any relief for his party leaders, adding that his meeting had been a “personal” one and had not been sought on the direction of anyone.

Similarly, Railways Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed has alleged that PMLN President Shahbaz Sharif and leaders Khawaja Asif and Ahsan Iqbal had also recently met the Army chief and ISI Director General Lt. Gen. Faiz Hameed in private.

PMLN Punjab President Rana Sanaullah has claimed Ahmed’s statements are a “security risk,” adding he has embarrassed “his backers” by divulging details of in-camera meetings. He has demanded the registration of an FIR against the minister for disclosing the contents of an “off-the-record” meeting.

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