ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi on Tuesday held his first meeting with Chief of the Army Staff Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa amid signs of impending political chaos.
The meeting was due since Mr Abbasi assumed the office of the prime minister last week, but it finally took place a day before ousted prime minister Nawaz Sharif begins his journey back to Lahore with the hope of using the opportunity for public mobilisation and reviving his political fortunes.
There have been concerns that Mr Sharif’s high-pitched rhetoric over his ouster through a Supreme Court verdict, which he is expected to continue in his speeches during his journey to Lahore, can aggravate political uncertainty.
The official word from the Prime Minister Office was that Mr Abbasi and Gen Bajwa discussed “professional matters pertaining to Pakistan Army”.
But happening in the middle of rumours about backchannel contacts between the military and Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif, brother of ex-PM Nawaz Sharif and his point man on troubled civil-military relations, and back-to-back statements by Gen Bajwa on the rule of law and supremacy of Constitution, there was little doubt that Mr Abbasi and Gen Bajwa discussed the political situation.
Analysts believe that the statements from the ISPR following Gen Bajwa’s visit to Rajgal Valley for witnessing Operation Khyber-IV and Monday’s corps commanders conference carried a subtle message for the political actors that the military was focused on its job of country’s defence and security, and was at the same time determined to uphold the rule of law and supremacy of the Constitution.
Hours after meeting the army chief, Prime Minister Abbasi met his predecessor Nawaz Sharif for what was described by the PM Office as discussion on the “current political situation”.
The official statement on the prime minister’s meeting with the army chief was full of praise for the military’s sacrifices in the fight against terrorism — more specifically Raddul Fasaad and Khyber-IV operations.
“The entire nation is proud of the sacrifices rendered by security personnel in ridding the motherland of the menace of terrorism,” Mr Abbasi was quoted as having told the army chief in a formulaic statement for such interactions with the top commander.
However, what caught the eye of observers was the picture of the meeting, which was interpreted by many as the return to the old setting for PM-COAS meetings that was in vogue before the last change of command in the army.
Published in Dawn, August 9th, 2017