ISLAMABAD: As a deadlock with the opposition and the top court over the issue of elections in May lingers on, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif has summoned a meeting of the National Security Committee (NSC) on Friday (today) in an apparent bid to seek the support of the military leadership for a delay in polls on the pretext of security concerns.

Though there was no official word about the meeting of the committee that acts as the “principal decision-making body on national security matters”, sources confirmed to Dawn that the meeting chaired by PM Sharif would take place on Friday.

It will be attended by Chief of Army Staff General Asim Munir, Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee (CJCSC) Gen Sahir Shamshad Mirza, heads of the air force and the navy, and federal ministers for defence, finance, and information.

Insiders said that the federal government would once again ask the top brass for a briefing on potential threats from militants in case elections were held in Punjab on May 14 as per the Supreme Court’s order.

Imran says govt attempting to ‘pit armed forces directly’ against judiciary, people

A source said the military authorities had given a detailed briefing to the government that terrorist outfits have regrouped in tribal districts bordering Afghanistan due to which conditions were not conducive for electioneering.

Another source claimed that the option of “imposing an emergency” in the country could also be discussed in the meeting in light of the current circumstances. The emergency can be declared under Article 232 — which pertains to the proclamation of emergency on account of war and internal disturbance — of the Constitution for the maximum period of one year. However, a resolution passed by parliament is necessary to declare the emergency.

It may be noted that the incumbent government had also summoned an NSC meeting in April last year to rebut the ‘foreign conspiracy narrative’ peddled by PTI chief Imran Khan following his ouster from power as a result of the no-trust vote.

‘Pitting military against judiciary’

Meanwhile, Mr Khan criticised the government for summoning the NSC meeting and claimed that the government would “try and use security as [a] pretext for postponement of elections”. “This will pit armed forces directly against not just judiciary but also the nation,” the former premier said, echoing the same apprehensions he had expressed during his address on Wednesday.

“They brought in an unconstitutional bill on SC and an NA resolution against [the] judiciary,” the PTI chief said, adding that the PDM government wanted to run away from elections at any cost.

Separately, PTI leader Fawad Chaudhry hoped that the National Security Committee would also let PM Sharif realise that the state institutions were standing tall to protect the Constitution. “The NSC proclamation tomorrow [Friday] will decide, which institution is standing with whom,” the PTI spokesperson replied to a question.

In response to another question about the army chief’s statement that Pakistan’s issues could be resolved through consensus, Mr Chaudhry said, “We are waiting for how the army chief’s statement will practically be taken forward.”

Published in Dawn, April 7th, 2023

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