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Nisar and Shahbaz in intense backchannel talks with COAS

Nisar and Shahbaz in intense  backchannel talks with COAS

ISLAMABAD: No matter how much the federal government cherishes ‘exemplary’ civil-military relations, Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan and Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif have spent several sleepless nights to hold backchannel dialogue with the military top command.
Daily Times has learnt that both senior PML-N leaders dashed to Rawalpindi several times in the last couple of weeks to meet Chief of Army Staff (COAS) Gen Raheel Sharif and other senior military officials to iron out their differences with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.
Both the leaders would also hold late-night meetings with former COAS Gen (r) Ashfaq Pervez Kiyani. The practice still continues, and just like the past it is kept a well-guarded secret.
“The immediate task they have is to arrange a meeting between prime minister and the army chief. And they are trying hard for the last three weeks with no luck so far,” sources disclosed.
The last meeting between prime minister and the army chief was held on April 6. The two were said to have developed differences over operation in Punjab, the process of accountability, China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CEPC) and civil government’s lackluster response after the arrest of a RAW agent from Balochistan.
Sources said that various controversial issues including corruption and good governance, policy regarding Pak-India relations, slow implementation of the national action plan, CPEC, combing operations in Punjab and most importantly the Panama Papers were discussed during the secret meetings.
The military establishment has conveyed a very clear message to the ruling party that campaign against corruption would be taken to its logical end. The military top command was not satisfied with steps taken by the federal government in that respect so far.
A ruling party source said that both Nisar and Shahbaz openly discussed their apprehensions that some elements within the military establishment were backing the opposition parties to weaken the government of Nawaz Sharif. In one meeting, the prime minister himself categorically stated that he would not be blackmailed by ‘anyone’.
Sources were of the view that the government is fully cognizant of the situation but wants to handle the matter carefully to avert any untoward situation.
The military establishment has made it clear to both Shahbaz Sharif and Chaudhry Nisar that they had nothing to do with opposition’s campaign against the government. They denied having any intention to destabilize the government, as they wanted a strong and stable government to execute the CPEC. Besides, the military establishment told them that the war against terror had entered a crucial phase and required good civil-military working relationship.
Regarding Panama leaks, the military establishment has demanded a transparent investigation regardless of what ruling and opposition parties have to say against each other. They expressed satisfaction over prime minister’s decision of requesting the chief justice to constitute a judicial commission to probe the leaks.
However, the current public contact campaign started by the prime minister shows his frustration to win public support which is fast evaporating.

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