ISLAMABAD: Chief of Army Staff Gen Qamar Bajwa called on the newly elected Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif on Tuesday.

It was the first meeting between the two since PM Shehbaz took over as the prime minister last week following the ouster of Imran Khan through a vote of no-confidence in the National Assembly. “Professional matters pertaining to national security were discussed during the meeting” held at the Prime Minister House, said the PM Office in a statement issued later.

It is a ritual for the services chiefs to call on the premier after he takes oath of office, but those meetings had not taken place during the past week.

Since Gen Bajwa had not attended PM Shehbaz’s oath-taking ceremony, his absence from the ceremony had set off speculations about the reason of his absence amidst a strong social media campaign by the coalition government’s critics urging the services chiefs to stay away from the inauguration of the new prime minister.

Military spokesman Maj Gen Babar Iftikhar, however, later explained at a media conference that the army chief could not attend the oath-taking ceremony, because he was feeling unwell due to which he also did not attend office that day.

A government source said the army chief paid a courtesy call. However, the source explained, challenges facing the new government were also discussed on that occasion including the state of ties with the US and the European Union, economy, and the growing political polarisation in the country.

Published in Dawn, April 20th, 2022

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