–Rasheed sparks idea of coup or split within PML-N if Nawaz is arrested
–Bilawal says people need to refrain from revealing details of confidential meetings
–Maryam denies presence of Nawaz’s representative in the meeting
KARACHI: Statements by Minister for Railways Sheikh Rasheed Ahmed on Wednesday, who claimed Ahsan Iqbal, Khawaja Asif and Shahbaz Sharif had held meetings with Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Qamar Bajwa and head of the Inter-Services Intelligence, Lieutenant General Faiz Hameed, upset many opposition leaders and prompted the military high-ups to step forward to counter his claims.
Shortly after the All Party Conference (APC) and the directions by Islamabad High Court (IHC) for the government to produce Nawaz Sharif, the railways minister predicted an implosion of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), claiming that the process has already started.
He disclosed that some senior politicians of the party had held two meetings with the military leadership. Speaking indirectly, Rasheed seemed to predict a coup or a split. wherein PML-N President Shehbaz Sharif would take over the party.
Rasheed alleged that the arrest warrants and Nawaz Sharif’s anti-establishment statements have caused troubles for the party, a sentiment supposedly held by many members of the PML-N. He predicted that a Shehbaz-led faction will soon arise.
The minister added that PML-N’s senior politicians held two meetings with the military leadership, with the first meeting lasting for five hours. and the second for three. “In one meeting, Khawaja Asif and former interior minister Ahsan Iqbal held an hours long meeting with military leadership while in other meeting Shehbaz Sharif and I sat on same table and ate dinner,” he said.
Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari at a press conference in Karachi said that those conversations are meant to be confidential, and that certain people need to refrain from revealing their details.
“Whenever there s a national security issue, whether it concerns India, AJK [Azad Jammu and Kashmir], GB [Gilgit-Baltistan], FATA [Federally Administered Tribal Areas], extremism and terrorism, we were, are today and will be together on these in the future,” he said, adding that the PPP and other political parties were approached on September 18 or 19 and invited to a national security briefing on GB.
Bilawal commented that these meeting are officially ‘off-the-record’, and said that he had no choice but to talk about the it “out of helplessness”.
“Some irresponsible persons [Rasheed] who have nothing to do with national security, GB, AJK or foreign policy, and who did not say a word in this meeting, are giving statements on every TV channel these days,” he said.
“I think such actions make national security and foreign policy issues controversial. And whoever’s spokesperson this [person] is, they should immediately ask them to shut up and not say anything irresponsible,” Bilawal said. “You can never be able to create consensus on any issue if such things happen,” he added.
PML-N Ahsan Iqbal denied reports of any one-on-one meeting with army leadership and said that Rasheed was lying about the meeting.
On the other hand, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) Vice President Maryam Nawaz denied reports of a meeting between Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Qamar Javed Bajwa and representative of former premier Nawaz. She was at the Islamabad High Court (IHC) for a hearing of an appeal against her conviction in the Avenfield House reference. When asked about the meeting, she said, “I do not know about dinner, maybe it was not a dinner [but] I heard about the meeting.”
She further said political decisions should be made in the parliament and not at the General Headquarters (GHQ).
“From what I understand it was called to discuss Gilgit-Baltistan which is a political issue, an issue of the people’s representatives, for them to solve and deliberate upon,” she said.
Maryam said that political issues should be discussed in the parliament and political leadership should be allowed to resolve problems of political nature.
Later, replying to Maryam’s statement, the railways minister remarked, “The day Maryam Safdar starts speaking the truth will be the end of her political career”.
ARMY BREAKS SILENCE:
The Pakistan Army finally broke its silence over the controversial statements made about the alleged meetings of political leadership with the military leadership, confirming that the opposition leaders had met with the military top brass twice in past few months.
Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) Director-General Major-General Babar Iftikhar told a private television channel that former Sindh governor and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) leader Mohammad Zubair had met with the army chief not once but twice in past some weeks.
“One meeting was held in the last week of August and the second meeting was held on September 7. ISI DG was also present in both meetings. Both the meetings were held on request made by Mohammad Zubair and in both the meetings, Zubair raised issues regarding Mian Nawaz Sharif sahib and Maryam Nawaz sahiba,” the military’s spokesperson said.
“In these meetings, the army chief made it clear to him that the legal issues of both of them would be resolved in Pakistani courts and political issues would be resolved in Pakistani parliament. Army should be kept away from these issues,” the ISPR DG said, adding that he would make no more comments over the issue.
Following ISPR DG’s comments, PML-N leader Muhammad Zubair also confirmed his meetings with the COAS Bajwa.
“Army chief termed matters against the PML-N leaders as legal affairs and said that courts should decide on them,” he said while quoting General Bajwa, and further added that such meetings are held in secret.
The second meeting was held in the presence of ISI DG, the PML-N leader said. He denied seeking any relief for Nawaz and Maryam during the meetings and said that they discussed political matters.
Zubair claimed that Maryam was unaware of the meetings initially but he later apprised her regarding the contacts made by him. “If I had been seeking relief for Nawaz Sharif and Maryam Nawaz then they would have known prior to the meeting,” Zubair said.
He further expressed his ignorance as to why details regarding the meetings are being conveyed to the media.