Nawaz bans party members from holding private meetings with military leadership

Published September 24, 2020
PML-N supremo Nawaz Sharif addressing a multi-party conference via video link from London on Sept 20. - DawnNews Screenshot
PML-N supremo Nawaz Sharif addressing a multi-party conference via video link from London on Sept 20. - DawnNews Screenshot

PML-N supremo Nawaz Sharif on Thursday said from now on no one from his party will hold individual, private or delegation-level meetings with the country's military leadership.

If necessitated by national security or constitutional requirements, such meetings in the future will be approved by the party's leadership and will be made public, he wrote on his personal Twitter account.

Nawaz's tweet comes a day after the Pakistan Army disclosed that former senior PML-N leader and Sindh governor Mohammad Zubair had twice reached out to Chief of the Army Staff Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa and discussed political and legal woes of Nawaz and his daughter Maryam Nawaz in the past few weeks.

“Mr Zubair twice met the army chief, once in the last week of August and then on September 7 in the presence of director general ISI,” revealed military spokesman Maj Gen Babar Iftikhar in a TV talk show on Wednesday. He said both meetings were held on Zubair’s request.

Nawaz said "recent events once again prove how some meetings remain hidden behind seven veils while others are given the colour of choice through publicising them. This game should now stop."

The PML-N supremo added that he was prohibiting his party members from meeting representatives of military or associated agencies in order to fulfil "requisites of Constitution of Pakistan and to remind the armed forces to comply with their oath".

Wednesday's disclosure by the director general of the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) came just hours after PML-N’s senior vice-president and former prime minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi told a news conference in Lahore that none of the party members had held one-on-one meeting with the army chief in the recent past.

This was the second time this week that opposition leaders’ secret contacts with the military leadership were made public. The disclosures followed Nawaz’s hard-hitting speech at the opposition’s September 20 multiparty conference in which he had lashed out at the army, saying there was “a state above the state in the country” and the conference’s communique calling for an end to “establishment’s interference in politics” and “no role of armed forces and intelligence agencies” in future elections.

Earlier on Sept 21, a day after the opposition’s MPC, federal Railways Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed revealed that major opposition figures, including Leader of the Opposition Shehbaz Sharif, PML-N’s parliamentary leader in National Assembly Khawaja Asif and PML-N secretary general Ahsan Iqbal, had met the COAS and the DG ISI in recent days.

That interaction was held on the military’s invitation for a discussion on the impending changes in the constitutional status of Gilgit-Baltistan though political issues and opposition’s concerns also came up during the meeting.

'Keep army out of politics'

Maj Gen Iftikhar said the COAS during his two meetings with Zubair “made it clear to him that their (Sharifs') legal issues would be addressed in court, while political matters were to be dealt in the parliament”.

The military spokesman added that Zubair was categorically conveyed that the army should be kept out of political matters.

Appearing on television channels afterwards and later through his Twitter account, Zubair did confirm his contacts with the military leadership but claimed that he had gone to discuss economic and governance issues. However, he admitted that the subject of Nawaz and Maryam did come up during the discussion.

“Gen Qamar Bajwa is an old friend and not only that I have met him many times as a friend but our families have also been meeting cordially over dinners etc. In my most recent meeting with him economy, politics and, of course, Nawaz Sharif and Maryam Nawaz, all came under discussion. No relief was ever requested,” the PML-N leader tweeted.

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