The military leadership has made it clear to the parliamentary leaders that the army should not be dragged into rivalries of political parties, saying that it is “not involved, directly or indirectly, in any political process of the country”.
“If required, the army will stand with the civilian government,” sources quoted a senior military official telling the parliamentary leaders during a meeting last week.
The parliamentary leaders had called on Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Qamar Javed Bajwa and Inter-Services Intelligence Director General Lt Gen Faiz Hameed to discuss administrative matters of Gilgit-Baltistan (G-B) and the role of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) among other issues.
According to the sources, the PML-N delegation included Shehbaz Sharif, Khawaja Asif and Ahsan Iqbal, while the PPP’s comprised Bilawal Bhutto Zardari and Sherry Rehman.
The sources said that the proposal to make G-B a new province was agreed upon.
Federal Minister for Railways Sheikh Rashid Ahmed on Monday confirmed during an interview with a private news channel that a meeting between the military leadership and parliamentary leaders had taken place last week.
The minister said that army chief Gen Qamar had made it clear to the opposition that the army should not be dragged into politics.
“Gen Qamar clearly told the opposition that the army has nothing to do with the appointment of the NAB chairman or the chief election commissioner. It is purely a political matter,” Rashid said.
On former prime minister Nawaz Sharif’s fiery speech during the all parties conference on Sunday, Rashid said that Sharif has closed the chapter of his politics by challenging the institutions. “His speech will sink Shehbaz Sharif’s boat and cause rifts inside the PML-N.”
Rashid said that Sharif’s speech targeted state institutions though his own politics started in the nursery of former military ruler Ziaul Haq.
“Sharif has decided his course while sitting in London. Now, it’s up to Shehbaz to decide what he wants to do.
“I don’t think Shehbaz knew what Sharif was going to say during the APC. Sharif has burned all his boats and given the Indian media their lead story.”
Rashid said that Gen Qamar told Asadur Rehman, the son of JUI-F chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman, that on one hand they were against the legitimacy of the assembly and on the other, his father was the presidential candidate from the same assembly.
The minister said that during the meeting, the army chief said that the military should not be dragged into every matter. “The army is bound to support the elected government and when it calls for help, the army assists.”
The sources said that during the meeting the army told the parliamentary leaders that the army should be kept away from matters like the election process, polling. “Civil affairs and matters should be handled by the civil administration,” the sources quoted the military leadership as saying.
The participants suggested that the task of elections in G-B be left to the new assembly, they said, adding that it was agreed in the meeting that the new G-B Assembly would pass the resolution itself.
As the parliamentary leaders expressed concerns over the role of NAB, the military leadership told them that they had no role in creating NAB.
According to the sources, PPP Chairman Bilawal with reference to the G-B elections said, “It is a matter of national security.”