ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif chaired a special meeting on “issues related to the military” on Friday.

It was one of those rare meetings that exclusively discussed military affairs. Most previous meetings featuring the prime minister and the army chief have been about national security matters, even though this one too was described by the Prime Minister’s Office as “a meeting on security”.

The meeting also stuck out from past interactions in the sense that Gen Sharif was only accompanied by ISI chief Lt Gen Rizwan Akhtar. In the past, the military delegation has been much larger.

Meeting expresses satisfaction over gains made in operation

From the government’s side, National Security Adviser retired Lt Gen Nasser Khan Janjua, who has been a key aide on security, was conspicuously missing.

Adviser on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz and Foreign Secretary Aizaz Chaudhry, who have been a regular feature in security meetings in the past, were also absent as they were on their way back home from the Saarc foreign ministers’ meeting in Nepal.

This prompted speculations that the agenda of the meeting was special.

The PM Office in a brief statement said: “Matters related to external and internal security were discussed during the meeting.”

The only agenda item specified in the press release was the review of progress of the ongoing military operation.

“It was noted with satisfaction that the operation has made significant gains,” it said, adding that the participants reaffirmed their resolve to root out terrorism and extremism from the country.

At the last Corps Commanders’ meeting held earlier this week, Army Chief Gen Sharif had hinted that the military offensive in North Waziristan was about to conclude.

The commanders had also deliberated on the post-offensive plans.

The elements of the next phase of Zarb-i-Azb, according to Gen Sharif, include intensified intelligence-based operations across the country, timely resettlement of displaced persons and stricter control of the border with Afghanistan.

Published in Dawn, March 19th, 2016


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