PML-N Vice President Maryam Nawaz on Wednesday said that political decisions should be made in the parliament, not at the General Headquarters (GHQ).
Maryam, who was at the Islamabad High Court for a hearing of an appeal against her conviction in the Avenfield property reference, was responding to a question from a reporter about Army Chief Gen Qamar Bajwa and head of the ISI Lt Gen Faiz Hameed's meeting with key opposition figures.
"I don't know about a dinner, maybe it was not a dinner [but] I heard about the meeting. From what I understand it was called to discuss Gilgit-Baltistan which is a political issue, an issue of the people's representatives, for them to solve and deliberate upon.
"These decisions should be made in parliament, not in GHQ," she said.
When asked whether former prime minister and PML-N supremo Nawaz Sharif was aware of the meeting, she said: "I don't know whether he was aware of [the meeting] or if he learnt of it later.
"But the political leadership should not be called nor should it go to discuss such issues. Whoever wishes to discuss these issues should come to the parliament."
Earlier in the week, it emerged that the army chief and the head of the ISI had held a meeting with key opposition figures before their multiparty conference and counselled them to refrain from dragging the military into political issues.
The September 16 meeting was attended by about 15 opposition figures including Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly Shehbaz Sharif, PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari, Jamaat-i-Islami emir Sirajul Haq, ANP’s Amir Haider Hoti, JUI-F’s Asad Mahmood, PML-N leaders Khawaja Asif and Ahsan Iqbal, PPP’s Senator Sherry Rehman and a few government ministers.
Railways Minister Sheikh Rashid, while confirming the meeting and its participants in a conversation with Dawn, had said the meeting was held to discuss the impending changes in the constitutional status of Gilgit-Baltistan.
However, the opposition had used this opportunity to flag its concerns about other matters, especially the military’s alleged interference in politics and allegations of persecution of its leaders on the pretext of accountability.
The timing of the meeting and its disclosure was linked by the onlookers to the opposition’s multiparty conference held on Sep 20 in which Nawaz had bitterly criticised the Army, saying there was “a state above the state in the country”.
Rashid had said the army chief clearly told the participants of the meeting that the Army was not in any manner linked to the political processes and had no involvement in matters concerning election reforms and accountability.
The army chief, however, had said the military only responds to calls for assistance by the elected civilian government and it would continue doing so irrespective of who is in office.
Gen Bajwa had reportedly categorically conveyed that no one would be allowed to create chaos in the country.
'Not one but two meetings'
Hours after Maryam reportedly said that none of Nawaz's representatives had attended the meeting at GHQ, Railways Minister Rashid issued a video message on Twitter, saying that he can "present proof" that both Shehbaz and Bilawal had attended the meeting.
He further said that "not one but two meetings have taken place" between the establishment and politicians.
"I want to tell the entire nation that this meeting was held [to discuss] Gilgit Baltistan's elections and granting it the status of a province provisionally," Rashid stated. "But during [the meeting] all political matters were discussed in three and a half hours. And the meeting held earlier lasted five and a half hours. The previous meeting was a dinner and the recent was a high-tea."
"If, according to Maryam Nawaz, Nawaz Sharif is unaware of that, I am not responsible," Rashid added.
The minister announced that he will hold a press conference at 5pm tomorrow in order to talk about the matter.