Published in The Nation newspaper on 19-May-2013
Army Chief General Ashfaq Pervaiz Kayani Saturday met with incoming prime minister Nawaz Sharif and his brother Shahbaz Sharif here at their Model Town residence.
General Kayani, who arrived in his private car without a formal protocol, spent about three hours with Sharif brothers and had lunch with them.
Neither the ISPR nor the PML-N Secretariat issued any press release about this unofficial call; however, informed party sources said the bigwigs discussed matters of national security, war on terror, regional peace and other relevant issues.
Some media reports said they also discussed the future of former Army Chief General Pervez Musharraf, who is under custody and is facing a plethora of cases including those relating to judges detention and murders of Benazir and Nawab Akbar Bughti.
The visit of the Chief of Army Staff (COAS) is being regarded as highly important by the political observers as the PML-N is going to form governments at the Centre and in two provinces and it would need a smooth ride and cordial relationship with the military to deal with a number of internal and external challenges.
Sources said the army chief greeted the PML-N president on the victory of his party in the general elections and he extended full support for the continuation of democratic process in Pakistan. General Kayani also briefed Nawaz, who is going to have third term as prime minister, on the security situation and related matters.
During talks views were also shared on ridding the country of the major problems and both had unanimity of view that the security issues facing the country will be resolved through joint efforts.
Kayani reportedly also shared views with Nawaz on Pakistan ties with US, Afghanistan, India and other regional states in the context of war on terror and foreign troops’ pullout from Afghanistan by the end of next year. The point of the view of the army in relation to peace talk with Taliban also came under discussion, besides the policies being pursued by the army in this regard.
The PML-N chief lauded the role and sacrifices rendered by Pak Army in the war on terror and expressed the resolve that the civil and military sides will jointly frame a strategy to end the scourge of terrorism and ensure peace in the country and the region. Nawaz committed not to compromise on national sovereignty, and integrity of the country. On behalf of the upcoming government of the PML-N, he assured the army chief of fullest cooperation to end terrorism and bringing peace in the country. Nawaz Sharif, on a number of occasions, has voiced for initiating talks with the Taliban for national reconciliation and restoration of peace in the country and the region.
Some people were surprised to see that the Army Chief has undertaken the visit when the legislators elect, Nawaz and Shahbaz, have yet to take oath as members of the assemblies. But many believe that Gen Kayani’s surprise meeting with the incoming civilian leadership would send a strong message both home and abroad that army was ready to work with the new civilian setup in complete harmony. They say the visit of the army chief is adumbrative of cordial and close relations which the civil and the military sides are going to have with each other in the time to come, and it would scrap the impression of any possible strain in relations between the two.
Online adds: Sources said that Kayani and Nawaz agreed on declaring the drone attacks a sheer breach of country’s sovereignty and stressed that these strikes should be stopped forthwith. Pentagon in its recent statement has reiterated resolve to continue drone strikes and national circles from Pakistan are voicing concern over this statement.
Army chief during his address on Yume Shuhada had come down hard on those forces who do not consider war on terror as Pakistan own war. Nawaz has been holding the stance that the issue should be resolved by means of dialogue. Certain information has also come that new government is engaged in evolving a security policy on this count under which national stance will be pursued on the matter of war on terror.
The army chief gave briefing to Nawaz on national security situation and terrorism. Nawaz presented his national charter to the COAS. No one other than Sharif brothers was present in the meeting. Nawaz lauded the role played by army in extending security cooperation during May 11 polls. The observers believe this meeting would a long way to dispel the impression that the incoming civilian government and the military were set to go on a warpath over vital national security issues.
Meanwhile, British High Commissioner Adam Thomson met PML-N Chief Nawaz Sharif here on Saturday.
During the meeting, Pak-Britain relations and matters of mutual interest, including Pakistan’s relations with neighbours also came under discussions. Adam Thomas also congratulated Nawaz Sharif on his success in the general elections and expressed good wishes on behalf of United Kingdom.
Thomson said the British government was an advocate of democracy and he added their government wanted better relations with the future democratic government of Pakistan.
The PML-N chief said Pakistan’s new government would focus more on trade than aid so that the economic crisis could be overcome in the country. He said Pakistan wanted good relations with all its neighbours and would not allow its soil to be used against any country.
Published in The Nation newspaper on 19-May-2013