ISLAMABAD: With Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif returning from London after consulting his elder brother and PML-N supremo Nawaz Sharif on the political quagmire in the country and appointment of a new army chief, all eyes were once again trained on Lahore, as President Arif Alvi and Chief of the Army Staff Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa were in the city for the night on Friday.

PTI chief Imran Khan is already in Lahore, recuperating from the wounds he suffered in an assassination attempt on him earlier this month.

President Alvi has emerged as the leading figure in the army’s ongoing “backchannel talks” with the PTI. He has already facilitated at least one direct meeting between Gen Bajwa and Mr Khan at the Presidency.

PTI sources, moreover, confirmed that the president delivered Gen Bajwa’s message to Mr Khan when he visited him last weekend to inquire about his health.

Read more: Imran calls on President Alvi to define ‘clear operational lines’ for ISPR

Gen Bajwa, returning from a farewell trip to the troops and officers stationed in Multan Garrison, stopped over in Lahore for a night. The army chief “commended their extraordinary professional competence and devotion to duty in the service of motherland”, the ISPR said on Friday.

Sources in the PTI did not rule out the possibility of a meeting between the three or President Alvi coming with a new message from the military leadership. Mr Alvi is scheduled to meet both Mr Khan and Gen Bajwa on Saturday, a source said.

The meeting(s) would be taking place against the backdrop of reports that ex-premier Nawaz Sharif had refused to give any “concessions” for easing political tensions. Earlier reports suggested that the army had been pressuring both the PTI and PML-N to back off so that the coming transition could go ahead smoothly.

Published in Dawn, November 12th, 2022

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