The matter of the military leadership meeting politicians took another turn on Wednesday night after the head of the Pakistan Army’s media wing said senior PML-N leader Mohammad Zubair held two meetings with Army Chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa in recent weeks about former prime minister Nawaz Sharif and his daughter Maryam Nawaz.
Inter-Services Intelligence chief Lt Gen Faiz Hameed was also present during the two meetings, Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) Director General Maj Gen Babar Iftikhar said, both of which were “requested” by Zubair, a former Sindh governor.
The two meetings were held in the last week of August and on September 7, said Maj Gen Iftikhar, who was speaking to journalist Arshad Sharif on ARY News. The ISPR chief was asked to comment on reports of politicians meeting the military leadership and claims that no PML-N leader was part of the reported meetings.
“In both meetings he (Zubair) talked about Mian Nawaz Sharif sahib and Maryam Nawaz sahiba,” Maj Gen Iftikhar said.
“During these meetings, whatever was discussed, the army chief made it clear to him (Zubair) that whatever their legal issues are will be solved in Pakistan’s courts, while the political issues will be solved in the parliament,” the ISPR chief added.
He said the PML-N was asked to “keep the army away from these matters”, declining to provide further details.
The two reported meetings are separate from a meeting held between 15 prominent opposition members, including senior leaders of the PML-N, and the army and ISI chiefs on Sept 16 last week.
In that meeting, which had come days before opposition parties at a multi-party conference announced a wide-ranging anti-government movement and criticised the military’s interference in politics, the army and intelligence chiefs had counselled the opposition to refrain from dragging the military into political issues, it had emerged on Monday.
Zubair, while talking to Geo’s Shahzeb Khanzada, said he has had personal ties with COAS Bajwa for more than 40 years. “There’s nothing unusual about the meeting,” he said when asked about the DG ISPR’s remarks.
Despite his close ties with the army chief, Zubair said he never approached Gen Bajwa when the PML-N was facing difficulties.
He also said he never broached issues related to elections or to Nawaz Sharif with the COAS.
“As a friend, I thought I should brief him (Bajwa) on the state of economy of Pakistan and issues of governance. But at the outset of the meeting I told him in clear words that I had not come to seek relief for anyone in my party, neither had I come on the request of anyone — neither Nawaz nor anyone else.”
Gen. Qamar Bajwa is an old friend & not only that I have met him many times as a friend but our families have also been meeting cordially over dinners etc. In my most recent meeting with him economy, politics & ofc MNS & MN all came under discussion. No relief was ever requested
— Mohammad Zubair (@Real_MZubair) September 23, 2020
He said the ISI chief was not present in the first meeting, adding that he was present in the second meeting “but not on my request”.
Zubair said the ISI chief asked him 3-4 times “What are you asking [for]?”, and he replied, “I am not asking anything.”
‘No representative of Nawaz’
Earlier today, PML-N vice president Maryam had reportedly said that no one representing her father Nawaz had met the army chief.
She said political decisions should be made in the parliament, not at the General Headquarters (GHQ).
“I don’t know about a dinner, maybe it was not a dinner [but] I heard about the meeting. From what I understand it was called to discuss Gilgit-Baltistan which is a political issue, an issue of the people’s representatives, for them to solve and deliberate upon.
“These decisions should be made in parliament, not in GHQ,” she said while responding to a reporter’s question.
She further said “the political leadership should not be called nor should it go to discuss such issues. Whoever wishes to discuss these issues should come to the parliament.”
These developments come on the heels of Nawaz‘s speech on Sept 20 in which he had bitterly criticised the Army, saying there was “a state above the state in the country”.
PML-N’s Mohammad Zubair (L) met Army Chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa twice in recent weeks, according to DG ISPR. — Reuters/INP/File