ISLAMABAD- In a new twist to the ongoing controversy about who asked the army chief to mediate in the current political turmoil, Interior Minister Ch Nisar Ali on Friday evening said the government had asked the Genral Raheel Sharif to play the role of ‘facilitator’ after ‘indications’ from both the protesting parties that they only had confidence in the Army.
He was addressing a press conference at the Punjab House after ISPR DG Major Gen Asim Bajwa tweeted quoting ISPR press release that “Chief of Army Staff (COAS) was asked by the government to play facilitative role for resolution of the current impasse in yesterday's meeting”.
On Friday, the two protesting parties – Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) as well as Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) – and the government, both blamed each other of inviting army chief’s intervention. However, the ISPR statement clarified the ambiguity and the interior minister came with a new explanation to save the government from the possible public backlash.
Nisar denied his statement given on the floor of the National Assembly earlier in the day that the protesting parties first asked the Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Raheel Sahrif to mediate. He categorically denied of giving such remarks, though he had in fact accused the PTI and PAT leadership of seeking Army’s intervention while speaking at the floor of the house and his accusation was later endorsed by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.
The minister in the press conference said that the government had assigned the responsibility to COAS to play the role of facilitator and that was within the ambit of law as well as constitution and ISPR's statement had also been issued after the approval of the government. “ISPR before issuing the statement sent it to me and with my consultation it went to the prime minister and the government finally approved it,” he claimed.
Responding to Dr Qadri speech that he made in reaction to government allegation, the minister said that the government never asked the army chief to mediate or play the role of guarantor. “We only asked the army to play the role of facilitator and did not use the unconstitutional words of guarantor and mediator,” he said. “PM said in national assembly that neither any one gave application to become mediator and guarantor nor the government assigned any such role to anyone,” he said, adding that the leader of the both the parties were giving wrong interpretation of PM’s remarks.
Actually, Ch Nisar Ali Khan was trying to diffuse the situation as after his remarks in NA, Imran Khan and Dr Qadri both told their supporters that they never asked army chief to play any role and it was the government which had sought Army’s help.
Nisar repeating his words uttered in the national assembly said that he had told the parliamentarians that “Pakistan Army is apolitical and the yesterday's decision to assign the responsibility to army as the role of facilitator was within the ambit of law and constitutional”.
He denying his earlier words that the protesting parties first requested the army chief to play his role said the government came to know through some sources involved in the negotiations that Imran Khan and Dr Tahirul Qadri had said that they had confidence in army alone and they were ready to make the army guarantor. "I never said that they directly asked army chief (for his intervention)," he said and at the same time added, “I stood by my words that application came from them” but I cannot say through which channel it came.
Responding a question, the minister denied that the government has struck a back channel deal with the army by giving the main authority on foreign policy to the military establishment. He said, "This is absolute nonsense. I say with full authority that this particular issue was not even on the table and it is pure speculation."
Nisar said that Thursday’s meeting of army chief with the PM was being misinterpreted and given illegal and unconstitutional colour though the prime minister and he himself had clarified this on the floor of the Lower House. "The misunderstandings were being created by those who wanted to use army for political purposes," he said.
The minister gave another twist to his press conference and said that he got a message from the military yesterday that perhaps protesting parties were requesting it to play the role and the government should first ask it. "I was asked to hold a press conference but I said it was not possible at the time," he said. "We have given the authority to the army but as if we did not had given it, the army could also interact with them as the government had invoked Article 245," he said.
Nisar criticised the live coverage by TV channels of the sit-ins of PTI and PAT saying that leaders representing eight to ten thousand people had occupied the most of the time of electronic media. He also said that most of their speeches were bases on lies. He said that six to seven thousands people in the protest of PAT were paid employees of Idara Minhajul Quran.
The minister said that tradition of assaulting the government buildings or the sensitive areas of the capital was not good as the protesting parties wanted to push the country two hundred years back in history. What was the guarantee that a bigger crowd than this would not threaten to assault in future, he asked. He condemned that the purpose of the protesting parties was that they wanted some dead bodies for politics. "We are trying our best not to harm the protestors but if any untoward incident took place, the whole responsibility would be on the protestors," he remarked.