ISLAMABAD - Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Chief of Army Staff General Raheel Sharif discussed on Tuesday the overall political situation in the country with specific reference to the situation emerging out of the prolonged sit-ins of Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf and Pakistan Awami Tehreek in Red Zone in the federal capital.
COAS General Raheel Sharif called on Premier Sharif at Prime Minister’s House and briefed him on the army’s views on the prevailing situation in the country and its possible fallout on the ongoing military operation in Waziristan Agency.
Sources aware of the deliberations of the meeting, which lasted for well over two hours, informed The Nation that it was the unanimous view of both the prime minister and the army chief that the ongoing issue should be resolved expeditiously through peaceful means, which according to them is in the best national interest.
The sources said Prime Minister Sharif informed the army chief about his government’s endeavours to resolve the issue through negotiations and the openness they had shown toward the protesters throughout their movement from Lahore to their final destination in Red Zone.
According to the sources, the PM said the government had accepted almost all the constitutional demands of the protesters of PTI and PAT and made it loud and clear that it would not accept any unconstitutional demand which mainly included prime minister’s resignation.
The sources further informed that the army chief briefed the prime minister about the security measures armed forces had taken, especially for the security of sensitive buildings in the federal capital, housing top constitutional institutions of the country and the Diplomatic Enclave comprising foreign embassies and missions.
It is pertinent to mention here that the army had taken over the control of the security in Red Zone before the entry of PTI and PAT marchers in the area, and staging sit-in in front of the Parliament House the army had come up with clear-cut caution that they were guarding the buildings considered to be the icons of the state and no one would be allowed to breach their sanctity.
The sources informed that the issue of internally displaced persons of Waziristan Agency also figured in the meeting and both the leaders expressed concern over the slipping down of the issue into oblivion due to the current protests of PAT and PTI.
Premier Sharif assured the COAS that they would not leave IDPs alone in this time of trial and would go extra mile to facilitate them and help them rehabilitate in their areas as soon as possible.
The premier also discussed the plan of rebuilding of the areas, which were cleared by armed forces and hoped that the infrastructure in these areas would be restored before the return of the IDPs.
Reuters adds: The meeting was one of many the two leaders have held in recent weeks over the impasse, said a senior source at army headquarters in Rawalpindi.
“They are discussing solutions,” said the official, who asked not to be named as he was not authorised to talk to reporters. “This situation is very alarming for the army. We are dealing with mobs. What if things get violent?”
The army’s media wing declined official comment.
“No one wants to take any steps that would make the situation worse,” the military source said.
Some government officials have accused elements within the military of orchestrating the recent protests to weaken the civilian government. The military insists it does not meddle in politics.
Few believe the military wants to seize power this time, but there is a widespread perception it is using the protests as an opportunity to weaken Sharif.
Government sources fear that if the agitation turns violent, the army could exploit the situation to seize power.
“It is unlikely,” said the military source, referring to the chances of Sharif stepping down or the army forcing him to quit. “But if events overtake ... one can’t say,” he said. “We should all work to avoid extreme possibilities.”