ISLAMABAD - Former president Asif Ali Zardari may not meet Army Chief Qamar Javed Bajwa anytime soon, The Nation has learnt.

The Pakistan People’s Party Parliamentarian (PPPP) president will be in Larkana from today (April 3) to attend the death anniversary ceremony of PPP founder Zulfikar Ali Bhutto on April 4.

There were speculations that Zardari might also meet General Bajwa in the coming days after Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf chief Imran Khan met with the army chief over the weekend.

After the meeting between the cricketer-turned-politician and the army chief, the rumour mill started turning. Khan’s statement that the general supported democracy was also analysed differently by different parties.

There were rumours of a possible ‘understanding’ between the PTI leader and the military as the nation awaited the verdict on the Panama leaks scandal against Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s family.

Military spokesman Maj-Gen Asif Ghafoor said that ‘various issues’ were discussed. PTI spokesperson Naeemul Haque said that ‘national and international issues were discussed’ at the meeting that lasted for more than an hour.

Speaking to The Nation, former interior minister Rehman Malik said that the basic question was why Imran Khan was the first to hold a meeting with the army chief. “And then he (Imran Khan) politicised the meeting. This gave birth to speculations. I think a brief handout about the meeting would have been better rather than keeping the people guessing,” he said.

Senator Malik said there was no scheduled meeting between Zardari and the army chief so far. “Asif Ali Zardari will be in Larkana for Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s death anniversary for the next few days,” he added.

He said Imran Khan had tried to share details of the meeting “in such a way that different people are perceiving different meanings.” He added: “There is no clarity. There is no harm in meeting the army chief. He is our hero and leads the defenders of the country. Anyone can meet him but trying to give it a political touch is not fair,” he maintained.

Malik said he will not be surprised if General Bajwa met the leadership of other parties in the coming days. “In fact, it (such meetings) will clear the air,” he remarked.

The Senator said the PPP respected the army and was happy with the appointment of Gen Bajwa, as “he is a true soldier”.

PPP Senator Farhatullah Babar told The Nation, “the PPP had neither received any invitation for a meeting with the army chief – from the General Headquarters - nor has the party requested for such a meeting”.

“I can say there is no meeting planned so far. Zardari will be in Larkana for Bhutto’s death anniversary,” he said. Babar said that Imran Khan’s meeting with the army chief was ‘unnecessary.’

PPP Senator Saeed Ghani said that Imran Khan should make the details of the meeting public. “Imran Khan said the army chief supports democracy. Did he ask the army chief or did Gen Bajwa himself made this statement,” he contended.

He said the details of the meeting should be shared as if something happened in the coming days, people will relate it to Imran Khan’s meeting with Gen Bajwa.

Ghani said that Imran Khan had turned into a “psychopath” as his own party founding leaders had approached the election commission complaining about his ‘corruption’.

“Imran Khan Niazi’s father Ikramullah Niazi was dismissed from his service on corruption charges. Now he wants other people to forget his father's sins by making hue and cry and levelling false accusations against others,” he said.

Senator Ghani claimed it was “a known fact that hardened terrorists were treated in his hospital but ironically no case was initiated against Khan for aiding and supporting terrorists.” 

Meanwhile, PPP Secretary Finance Haider Zaman Qureshi said that “midgets like Khawaja Saad Rafiq” cannot succeed to change the facts through levelling false accusations against others.

In response to a news conference by Railway Minister Khawaja Saad Rafiq, Qureshi alleged that the government was run by a clerk of Nawaz Sharif who has raised oil prices five times in the last three months.

“Sharif family is looting and plundering the poor Pakistani public and amassing illegal wealth in foreign countries,” he added.

Qureshi said that the Railway Minister should be held accountable for dozens of Railway accidents. “(Prime Minister) Nawaz Sharif and his family have been proved corrupt irrespective of a court decision in the Panama case,” he argued.