ISLAMABAD: Such is the level of security scare gripping the country during Muharram that President Asif Ali Zardari on Friday met Chief of Army Staff General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani and Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf to take stock of internal security threats.
The media wing of the president’s secretariat did not say if the president, prime minister and the COAS had a joint meeting or met separately. It issued two different press releases, which said the president discussed internal security of the country with the COAS and the prime minister.
But, the presence of the three at the presidency prompted some in the media to recall the well-known term of troika — president, prime minister and the COAS — which was frequently used during the 90s.
“In view of an unprecedented rise in suicide bombings and other terrorist activities during Muharram, the meeting focused on internal security of the country,” said a government official privy to the meeting.
Initially President Zardari and General Kayani had a one-on-one meeting, which was later joined by the prime minister, he said.
Asked if the meeting had any other agenda, he said: “As far as I know, the only issue discussed during the meeting was law and order.”
But according to a security analyst, although General Kayani on Thursday had said there was no need for a military operation in Karachi, they must have discussed ways to bring normalcy back to the city. Since there had been no let-up in the incidents of targeted killings in the city and as calls were rising for a military operation in Karachi, the issue must have been taken up during the meeting, he said.
Talking to reporters on Thursday, General Kayani had ruled out the possibility of a military operation in Karachi, saying Rangers and police were effectively discharging their duties.
About army deployment on Ashura, General Kayani said it was for the civilian government to decide when and where it needed help of the army.
The one-line press note issued on the meeting said: “Security situation was discussed during the meeting.”
The one-point agenda does make sense because Ashura, 10th of Muharram — will be on Sunday and terrorists have already attacked Majalis in Karachi. Late on Wednesday evening a suicide bomber sneaked into a mourning procession near Rawalpindi and killed more than 20 people.
With the main mourning processions planned for 10th of Muharram, the federal and the provincial governments are worried about the possibility of more terrorist attacks.
Because of the level of threat, Interior Minister Rehman Malik has announced suspension of mobile phone services in about 50 cities. A ban on pillion riding was also on the cards for Ashura.
On the other hand, provincial governments are in touch with military authorities for deployment of troops in sensitive areas.
About the meeting between the president and the prime minister, the presidency said: “Overall situation in the country, with special reference to security arrangements during Muharram, was discussed.”
D-8 SUMMIT: The president also felicitated the prime minister on the holding of the D-8 summit in Islamabad which, he said, would not only improve the image of the country but also prove instrumental in further strengthening bonds among the member countries and forging cooperation to face common challenges.
The president briefed the prime minister about meetings he had held on the sidelines of the summit with his Nigerian counterpart Goodluck Jonathan, the head of Bangladeshi delegation and Adviser to the Prime Minister on International Affairs Dr Syed Ali Gowher Rizvi, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Indonesian President Dr Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, Vice President of Egypt Mahmoud Mekki and Iranian President Dr Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, besides a meeting of the leaders of Egypt, Indonesia, Iran, Turkey and Pakistan.