ISLAMABAD - Though the rumour mill has gone into overdrive after Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) chief Imran Khan’s meeting with Chief of Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa, a senior party office-bearer on Saturday said that the meeting was requested by the PTI chief a long ago to discuss the Pak-Afghan border closure issue.

“Chairman Imran Khan had requested a meeting with the COAS to discuss the border closure issue following his meeting with the Afghan ambassador on March 4,” PTI’s Central Media Department head Iftikhar Durrani told The Nation.

“As the border has already been reopened and the meeting could not be fixed till the late evening of March 31 when it turned into a courtesy call and issues of national importance came under discussion during the hour-long conversation,” Durrani said.

According to him, Afghan Ambassador Omar Zakhilwal in a meeting with Khan at his Bani Gala residence had requested the PTI chief to play his role in reopening the border that was closed by security agencies after a new wave of terrorism hit the country. “As the closure of border had caused a humanitarian crisis, Khan had sent a request to the COAS for a meeting,” he said.

After his meeting with the Afghan ambassador, the PTI had expressed consideration for the people of both the countries who were stranded due to the closure of the border and had asked for the resumption of dialogue to resolve the issue.

Later, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on March 20 ordered to reopen the border that was sealed on February 16.

Political pundits in Islamabad were giving much importance to the rendezvous at a time when a verdict in the Panama leaks case is awaited and the PTI has announced to raise in the parliament the issue of appointment of former army chief Gen (retd) Raheel Sharif as the head of the Saudi–led 39-nation Islamic military alliance.

The PTI remains committed to raising the issue of Pakistan’s joining the alliance amid some rumours that the party perhaps would change its mind after Khan’s meeting with Gen Bajwa.

“We have a principled stance that how the government decided to become part of the alliance ignoring a unanimous resolution of the parliament and we will raise the issue in the next session of the parliament,” senior PTI leader and National Assembly Member Dr Shireen Mazari said.

The April 2015 resolution of the joint sitting of the parliament had asked the government to stay out of joining its military alliance led by Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

Meanwhile, the PTI chief while commenting on his meeting with Gen Bajwa said that the army chief “stood by democracy”. “The only thing which I want to say about the meeting is that the good news is that the army chief stands by the democracy,” he said while talking to reporters at a local hotel.

He said this after attending an event organised in connection with the PTI’s billion tree Tsunami project in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa.