ISLAMABAD: Weeks after his party chief announced his desire to mend relations with the US — despite previously accusing it of treating Pakistan as a slave and claiming it conspired to remove him as prime minister — Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) Vice President Fawad Chaudhry met US Ambassador Donald Blome at the US embassy in the federal capital on Tuesday.

“It was a routine meeting; nothing special about it,” Mr Chaudhry said when asked by Dawn to confirm the meeting. However, he chose not to respond when asked whether anyone else had accompanied him during the interaction.

According to media reports, Mr Chaudhry’s meeting with Mr Blome lasted for almost an hour and this was reportedly his second meeting with the US diplomat this month.

A few months ago, PTI chief Imran Khan had accused the US of engineering his ouster on the basis of a diplomatic cipher sent by a Pakistani diplomat based in Washington. He is also on the record as asking why legislators from the then-opposition parties had allegedly met US diplomats on different occasions, describing these meetings as ‘unethical’ and ‘unnecessary’.

Asad, Shireen criticise departing army chief, seek total reset in civil-military ties

Mr Khan’s insinuations were greeted with disdain in official circles at the time, as it has been fairly common practice for foreign diplomats to meet politicians from both government and opposition camps. Given their nature, the details of such meetings are rarely shared with the media.

Fractured trust

Meanwhile, PTI Central Secretary-General Asad Umar urged new Chief of Army Staff (COAS) Gen Asim Munir to restore the fractured trust between the army and the nation, which he said had been badly hurt by decisions taken during the last eight months.

In a statement, he criticised the now-retired Gen Bajwa for leaving behind a legacy of political turmoil, a shattered economy and, worst of all, fracturing of the relationship of trust between the army and citizens with his decisions. Mr Umar said Gen Munir’s first priority should be to restore the relationship of respect and love between the nation and the military leadership.

He said the relationship could not be one-sided, nor could it be maintained through the use of force and coercion. Mr Umar also hastened to add that though relations between the nation and the army may have been hurt, the people were still proud of the soldiers who defended their country.

PTI’s Senior Vice President Dr Shireen Mazari stressed that the state cannot continue with “business as usual” and that civil-military relations needed a total reset in sync with the Constitution.

In a statement, she said the new leadership at GHQ needed to undertake massive damage control post the departure of Gen Bajwa.

“This will not begin by abductions, assassination plots and protection of suspects by preventing FIRs, custodial torture, blackmailing videos and seeing every critical tweet by an individual as an instigation to mutiny,” she added.

Ms Mazari urged an immediate end to enforced disappearances and asked that information regarding the fate of their loved ones be given to the families of the missing. She also asked the military leadership how many of them have stuck to the oath that they take, asking whether anyone has ever held violators accountable for defying their oath.

“Mir Jafars are a reality of our history! But those who ask questions can be abducted, tortured or worse, simply for asking! Let’s hope it will truly be [the] end,” she added.

Talking about the Azam Swati case, Ms Mazari claimed that 21 FIRs have been lodged in Sindh and Balochistan against Mr Swati as the Supreme Court remains “blind” to this mockery of its own judgement.

“The petulance of those doing this is dangerous because this vendetta against Senator Swati can lead to his murder,” she added.

Published in Dawn, November 30th, 2022

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