ISLAMABAD: After a brief but busy trip to London, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif landed back home on Monday, but took the day ‘slow’ apparently owing to an illness.

The prime minister will soon convene a meeting of his allies in the government to take them into confidence on the series of meetings he held in London with PML-N supremo Nawaz Sharif on key issues such as the appoi­nt­ment of a new army chief and Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf’s (PTI) long march on Islamabad.

PM Sharif had reached London on Wednesday last week after attending the COP27 summit in Sharm el-Sheikh in Egypt. During his five-day stay in the British capital, the premier held a slew of meetings with his self-exiled former prime minister brother, Nawaz Sharif, wherein according to media reports, they discussed the next army chief’s appointment among other critical issues.

According to Information Minister Marriyum Aurang­zeb, the prime minister reached home on Monday morning and did not chair any official meeting.

A source close to the PM said he was not well, as a result of which he spent a ‘slow’ Monday. The premier had fallen ill in London, which was why he had extended his private visit by two days, he added.

Regarding the PM’s meeting with his coalition partners, the source said he wo­uld talk to his allies “soon” on key issues discussed during his London stay.

As per media reports, Nawaz and Shehbaz had decided that the issue of appointment of the army chief was a constitutional matter and would be dealt with constitutionally and on merit.

This was PM Sharif’s third visit to London since he assumed the top office in April.

It comes in the wake of incumbent army chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa’s extended tenure ending on Nov 29 and amid speculation whether the general would be given another extension to his service or a new chief appointed. The military spokesman and the army chief himself have on multiple occasions stated Gen Bajwa would retire at the end of this month.

On the other hand, PTI Chairman Imran Khan had derided the PM for discussing the all-important appointment with his elder brother in an alleged violation of the Official Secrets Act and a breach of a premier’s oath.

Planning and Development Minister Ahsan Iqbal had earlier said the PM would soon after his return take his coalition partners into confidence on the decisions taken in London.

When contacted, Faisal Karim Kundi, spokesperson for the PPP — the main ally in the PML-N-led government, told Dawn his party and two other coalition partners, the Muttahida Qaumi Movement and Awami National Party, had so far not been invited to any meeting with the prime minister.

“We know that the PM has returned to the country, but he has not invited us for a meeting as yet,” he said, adding PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari has also reached Karachi from his foreign visit and was available for a meeting of the top leadership of the allied parties.

Published in Dawn, November 15th, 2022

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