‘Extraordinary’ huddle at GHQ focuses on CPEC

June 08, 2016


TOP military and civil leaders at a meeting convened by Army Chief Gen Raheel Sharif at the General Headquarters.
TOP military and civil leaders at a meeting convened by Army Chief Gen Raheel Sharif at the General Headquarters.

ISLAMABAD: Key civil and military leaders assembled at the General Headquarters on Tuesday to review the policy towards Afghanistan and deliberate on the challenges to the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor.

The rare meeting convened by Army Chief Gen Raheel Sharif was described by the quarters concerned as “extraordinary”.

The civilian side was represented by Finance Minister Ishaq Dar, who is looking after government affairs in the absence of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, Defence Minister Khawaja Asif, Adviser to the PM on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz, PM’s Special Assistant Tariq Fatemi and Foreign Secretary Aizaz Chaudhry.

First high-level meeting in the absence of PM

Gen Sharif was assisted by ISI chief Lt Gen Rizwan Akhtar and his other key aides.

The first civil-military huddle on national security since Prime Minister Sharif left for London for heart surgery is believed to have been prompted by some specific concerns even though a statement issued by the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) said it was held for deliberations on “issues related to external and internal security situation of the country, including CPEC”.

The national security meeting, from which National Security Adviser retired Lt Gen Nasser Janjua and Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar were conspicuous by their absence, according to one participant in the session, was chiefly about outstanding issues in relations with Afghanistan and the CPEC.

The absence of Mr Nisar and Gen Janjua left little doubt that the session was neither about internal security nor India was the main agenda topic.

There were virtually no details about the decisions taken on ties with Afghanistan and the CPEC although it is well known that such meetings precede important decisions by the government and military.

The ISPR’s media statement was, meanwhile, high on rhetoric and contained the usual pledges about not allowing hostile intelligence agencies — a reference to Indian intelligence agency RAW and Afghan outfit NDS — and their unnamed “facilitators” to foment trouble in the country, and protecting “core national interests” and “countering any negative outside influence”.

According to a source, the meeting “reaffirmed commitment to the Afghan peace”, but emphasised border management to control cross-border movements.

The meeting condemned the US drone strike, which last month killed Afghan Taliban chief Mullah Akhtar Mansour.

The “21 May US drone strike was a clear violation of Pakistan’s sovereignty and it affected mutual trust and undermined the spirit of Afghan Peace Process under mutually agreed Quadrilateral framework,” the participants of the meeting observed, according to ISPR statement.

Despite its regrets that decisions at the four-nation group’s last meeting were not respected, Pakistan remains associated with the quadrilateral process for peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan.

“The meeting also took cognizance of ongoing regional developments and inimical designs against our stability and prosperity,” the ISPR said.

Pakistan has viewed the Iranian Chabahar port, which is being developed with Indian assistance, and the trilateral transit agreement between Iran, India, and Afghanistan as a security threat.

After the meeting, the army chief received Chinese Ambassador Sun Weidong in his office for a discussion on “regional security and the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor”.

Published in Dawn, June 8th, 2016