ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani’s meeting on Tuesday with Chief of Army Staff Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani and Director General of Inter Services Intelligence Lt Gen Ahmad Shuja Pasha indicated that tense relations between civil and military leadership are on the mend.
Although the media wing of the prime minister’s secretariat said in a two-paragraph press statement that the meeting was meant to discuss security situation in the region, with particular reference to Afghanistan, but, according to a senior PPP leader, all important issues currently besetting the country came under discussion.
The meeting was also attended by Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar, who earlier during the day had met US Ambassador to Pakistan Cameron Munter.
The official statement said: “Foreign Minister Ms Hina Rabbani Khar, Army Chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, and DG ISI Lt Gen Ahmad Shuja Pasha called on Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani at the PM House and held a detailed meeting to discuss the regional security situation.”
It further said that the prime minister had asked the foreign minister to undertake a visit to Afghanistan. In the meeting, the ongoing reconciliation process in Afghanistan also came under discussion keeping in view the stability and security of the region.
But sources said the role played by intermediaries to bring the two sides on one page had apparently bearing fruit and Tuesday’s meeting was one of them.
Among others, they said, PML-Q leader Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain had played a key role to bring this about.
There was increasing realisation on both sides that there would be no winners and only losers in a show of brinkmanship. Thus, the only way forward is to act sensibly, said the sources, who have been closely watching recent happenings.
The PPP official said the memo case had turned out to be a blessing in disguise for the government as military authorities appeared to have started realising that if the issue was prolonged, it could go either way.
He said that seemingly a slowdown on the memogate issue was the result of realisation by all stakeholders, including the PML-N and military authorities.
Akram Sheikh, the counsel for Ijaz Mansoor, publicly criticised on Monday the COAS and other military authorities for not pursuing the memo case actively.
He also came hard on PML-N chief Mian Nawaz Sharif on the same ground who was the main petitioner in the case.
It was the first meeting among the three after the prime minister’s Dec 22 statement about the “state within a state”.
On Jan 9, the prime minister took another pot shot on the COAS and the DG of ISI when in an interview with a Chinese media outlet, he criticised their responses submitted by them to the Supreme Court on the memogate affair and described them as unconstitutional and illegal.
On Jan 11, the ISPR in a rather harshly-worded press statement, hit out at the prime minister for criticising the COAS and DG ISI and said it could have serious ramifications.
A collision looked unavoidable when immediately after the ISPR statement Mr Gilani sacked the secretary of defence on charges of misconduct for having directly forwarded the responses of the COAS and DG ISI to the court without seeking the government’s approval.
But since then efforts have been made at various levels to defuse the tension. Besides backchannel meetings, the COAS and Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee separately met President Asif Ali Zardari earlier this month.
Besides the issues, the sources said, the prime minister and military leadership in their meeting on Tuesday also discussed recommendations of the parliamentary committee on national security about terms for future engagement with the US and Nato.
The government has plans to take up the recommendations in a joint session of the two houses of parliament likely to be called towards the end of the month or in the first week of February.
On moving ahead with Afghanistan, the meeting decided to engage the Afghan government on outstanding issues.
The two countries suffered a major breakdown in relations after the assassination of former Afghanistan President Burhanuddin Rabbani. The Afghan government had blamed the killing on the ISI, an accusation Pakistan rejected.
As a first step, Ms Khar will go to Kabul to prepare ground for Prime Minister Gilani’s visit.
The prime minister had to visit Afghanistan in September last year, but it could not materialise because of President Rabbani’s assassination.