ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is expected to exchange notes today with his cabinet members in a meeting that will discuss crucial issues like selection of the new army chief and India’s aggression along the Line of Control (LoC) and the Working Boundary, The Express Tribune has learnt.
The army on Monday put to rest all speculations about possible extension in the tenure of army chief General Raheel Sharif as it announced that Raheel had begun his farewell visits ahead of his retirement on November 29.
The government is considering names of four top three-star generals to fill in the slots of joint chief of staff committee and chief of army staff, which are falling vacant on the same day. Sources said a number of consultative rounds have been held but Premier Nawaz has yet to speak his mind.
Some official circles are of the view that Nawaz will consult with Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan before finalising any names for the slots as Nisar is said to be on cordial relations with security establishment. He is currently hospitalised in London and is undergoing eye treatment.
The cabinet meeting will also discuss the heightened hostilities between Pakistan and India and the eastern neighbour’s repeated ceasefire violations of ceasefire agreement at the LoC.
Sources said Pakistan has decided not to let the Kashmir issue land on the backburner and foil India’s bid to detract world attention from the issue.
The PM has tasked the Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) government and the ruling party’s AJK chapter to reach out to Hurriyat leadership in Srinagar to develop collective strategy to highlight Kashmir issue. The related options are expected to be discussed in today’s meeting.
The premier and his aides will also discuss the government’s strategy in the Panamagate case, which a larger bench of the Supreme Court has been hearing since earlier this month and will take up once again on November 30.
The case primarily about the offshore companies of the PM’s family members took a dramatic turn during its last hearing s after the government’s counsel presented letter from a Qatari prince, claiming that he provided Sharif’s the money to buy their London properties. The development coincided with the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf’s lead counsel, Hamid Khan.
The meeting will also discuss the issue of the repatriation of millions of Afghans sheltering in Pakistan for over three decades. In the last cabinet meeting held on November 2, the government put off a decision for crafting a comprehensive strategy in this regard.
The government says the cabinet postponed the decision in order to consult all political parties and stakeholders to evolve a consensus on the issue. The cabinet has already extended registered Afghan refugees stay till March 31, 2017 while the government is set to give further extension.
Sources said the government has also decided to look into the ‘longstanding’ demand of the MNAs and senators for increase in their salaries. Political sources believe the government may approve hefty increase in the MPs salaries to win the Parliament’s support at a time when the government is grappling with political challenges, especially coming from Panamagate case.
The PM’s Adviser Amir Muqam avoided sharing details regarding decision on new army chief’s appointment. “Such issues are sensitive in nature. The details would be shared soon, at the right time—when things are finalised,” he told The Express Tribune.
The adviser insisted that today’s cabinet meeting is mainly being held in the context of heightened hostility with India and to deliberate on options to pursue Kashmir issue at the international forums ‘aggressively’ and ‘vigorously.’
Published in The Express Tribune, November 23rd, 2016.