Nawaz meets Zardari today, ‘general issues’ on agenda

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  • PPP co-chairman to be accompanied by Raza Rabbani and Khurshid Shah
  • PM’s House, ISPR say no meeting scheduled between prime minister and army chief

 

Amid rising tensions between the armed forces and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) government, both the sides seem to have no plans for an immediate meeting.

Peace talks with Taliban, release of prisoners and former army chief Musharraf’s trial are said to be the causes of growing discomfort between the government and army.

Sources close to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Raheel Sharif told Pakistan Today that there was no chance of a meeting between the two as it seemed that both sides were involved in in-house deliberations to find a common ground to resolve the issues concerning both the sides. Meanwhile, the army’s media wing, the Inter-Services Public Relations has also denied such a meeting being on the schedule.

However, sources claimed that the prime minister had planned to meet former president and Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari and the meeting was likely to take place today (Wednesday).

When contacted, a prime minister’s spokesman confirmed a meeting between the two leaders, adding that this was a scheduled meeting being held on Zardari’s request.

“Asif Zardari will be visiting PM’s House along with his close aides Mian Raza Rabbani and Syed Khurshid Shah,” he added.

Zardari traditionally is an opponent of the PML-N but has adopted a reconciliatory posture towards Nawaz Sharif and has publicly extended support to the PML-N government for the next five years. Zardari is also conventionally an anti-establishment politician while Raza Rabbani is also a staunch opponent of army’s policies while Shah is not considered a hawk.

This meeting however would be watched closely by observers as this would be a bid by the prime minister to seek political support from his opponent – which might ring alarm bells in the General Headquarters (GHQ).

This also reflects that the premier has made up his mind to go public over his differences with the army over the trial of Gen (r) Pervez Musharraf. This meeting is being held amid media reports which had claimed a likely meeting between both the leaders soon after the return of prime minister from his China tour however the ice does not seem to be breaking.

Prior to the premier’s China visit, the ISPR had issued a strong-worded statement by General Raheel Sharif, stating that the army would resolutely preserve its dignity and respect come what may. The statement had come to the fore amid reports that the army leadership was unhappy and angry over a tirade unleashed by some ministers of the government against the army.

Meanwhile, the media also reported that the prime minister had accepted the invitation of Chief of Army Staff Gen Raheel Sharif to attend the passing out parade at Kakul.

According to a private TV channel, the premier has agreed to attend the passing out ceremony as the chief guest at Kakul on April 19.

The prime minister’s spokesman also downplayed the acceptance of this invitation, stating that the scheduled visit by the premier was finalised four weeks back.