Pakistan Tehrik-i-Insaaf (PTI) Chief Imran Khan’s visit to the Army House Rawalpindi on Friday, to meet Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Qamar Javed Bajwa has been looked at with suspicion, as it should. Reading too much into this meeting is unwise, but it is undeniable that an opposition leader showing up at the doorstep of the army chief is nothing short of irregular.

The COAS normally has procedural meetings with the leader of only one political party, the one in government at the time. For now, that is the PML-N which is why a meeting with leaders of opposition parties is strange, at the very least. If Mr Zardari showed up at the doorsteps of the army chief, or if Mr Khan chose to visit the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court out of the blue, we would be just as sceptical.

It is not as if the meeting is part of a larger conspiracy – from the reports of the meeting, issues of national and international importance were discussed, the PTI chief congratulated the COAS on his promotion and the hour-long meeting led to Imran Khan stating that the new army chief “stands with democracy”. But if that is all, why did Mr Khan ask for a face-to-face meeting?

At a time when the biggest opposition to the government’s (or establishment’s) decision to join the Saudi military alliance is PTI, could this meeting have been called for an attempt to bring the party back into line? With our inclusion into ‘Muslim NATO’ comes Raheel Sharif’s appointment as its head, which is also something that the government has been blamed for (by PTI in particular). But judging by recent history and during his time as the head of army, it is not as if the government has ever been able to dictate terms to the former COAS. The decision to accept a position at the head of the alliance is solely Raheel Sharif’s. The army, as a unified institution, would not want one of the major political parties of the country questioning the decision of the much-loved former leader.

And then there is the election fever currently gripping all prominent political leaders. PML-N and PPP have already started making public speeches to malign one another and cement their own support. Alliances are being chalked out, and PTI is a notorious favourite of the security establishment. Imran Khan has often alluded towards the umpire lifting his finger. Could this then mean that the team captain has gone to meet the umpire, in the efforts to elicit support at a crucial time?

Speculations on Mr Khan’s behaviour must be made because principally, the state is one unified whole with the government managing the state of affairs and all institutions following its lead. The army’s chief is to report to the Prime Minister, who naturally hails from the ruling party. And no other party leader should conduct business on the sidelines with the COAS, unless they get voted into power. Until then, even when such requests for audiences by other politicians are received, they must be declined, not indulged.