No representative of Nawaz Sharif met the army chief, says Maryam

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PML-N Vice President Maryam Nawaz, while terming the Gilgit-Baltistan issue a political one, said: "Neither should the GHQ summon the political leadership on these political matters nor should the political leadership go there." — Geo News/Screenshot via

ISLAMABAD: No one representing former prime minister Nawaz Sharif met army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa, PML-N vice president Maryam Nawaz said Wednesday.

In an informal conversation outside the Islamabad High Court, a journalist asked Maryam if the "establishment" and the PML-N leadership had come to "an agreement" since Nawaz's speeches along with hers were aired on television.

"Maybe the media should tell us why our speeches are being broadcast," she responded, saying "tyranny and pressure tactics" only work to a certain extent and are not always fruitful.

The PML-N leader denied knowledge of a dinner being hosted at the General Headquarters (GHQ), adding however, "I believe the political leadership was called over to discuss the issue of Gilgit-Baltistan".

She said that Nawaz has a heart condition and that she was not in favour of such a meeting.

"Gilgit-Baltistan is a political issue," she said, adding that "it should be resolved in the parliament, not at the GHQ".

"Neither should the GHQ summon the political leadership on such matters nor should the political leadership go there," Maryam said.

In response to another question on Khawaja Asif's presence in the meeting and whether he had raised the issue of rigging in the 2018 elections, Maryam said: "The rigging had already taken place three months before the general elections."

When a reporter asked if PML-N president Shehbaz Sharif was forming a "Sheen League", she said the former Punjab chief minister is "a very loyal brother" and would "never go his own way".

"If Shehbaz had to separate [himself from the PML-N], he would have been the prime minister today. Shehbaz gave preference to his brother for the role," she added.

'PML-N met top army brass twice'

Railways minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed, however, refuted Maryam's claims, claiming there was not one but two meetings between PML-N leaders and the top military brass.

They "had two meetings with the army chief", Rashid said in a conversation with Geo News, adding that "the day Maryam speaks the truth will be the last day of her political career".

The railways minister went on to claim that "Khawaja Asif and Ahsan Iqbal had one-on-one meetings with the army chief (Gen Bajwa) and Lt Gen Faiz Hameed (the director-general of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI)".

"In the first meeting, Shehbaz Sharif and I dined at the same table. The first meeting was five hours long and the second meeting went on for three hours and 15 minutes," he said,

"Ahsan Iqbal was present in both meetings with the military leadership," he added, noting that although the gathering was held for a discussion on the Gilgit-Baltistan issue, "politics was discussed openly".

The minister said he waited till the end because "I had to give my book to the army chief and that's when I saw Ahsan Iqbal and Khawaja Asif having a one-on-one conversation with Gen Faiz".

"This was the first instance of 'Sheen' separating from the 'Noon'," he said, referring to talks of a new faction of the PML-N under party president Shehbaz.

On the other hand, PML-N's Ahsan Iqbal, also invited by Geo News to speak, denied Rashid's claims of a one-on-one meeting with the army chief.

"I know of one meeting between the army chief and the parliamentary leaders which I attended.

"The meeting was held in one hall, all the delegates were present there, and the topic [of discussion] was Gilgit-Baltistan," Iqbal said.

Civil-military huddle

A meeting took place last week between civil and military leadership, news of which emerged on Monday.

According to reports, parliamentary leaders were told that the army should not be dragged into parties' political rivalries, with military leaders conveying clearly that the army was “not involved, directly or indirectly, in any political process of the country”.

The meeting was attended by Chief of Army Staff Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa and Director-General of Inter Services Intelligence Lt Gen Faiz Hameed. Gilgit-Baltistan's administrative affairs were also on the meeting's agenda.

Meanwhile, PML-N leader Khawaja Asif, appearing yesterday on Geo News programme "Aaj Shahzeb Khanzada Kay Sath", made several interesting revelations about what was discussed.

Speaking on Geo News programme "Aaj Shahzeb Khanzada Kay Sath", Asif said the leaders of all political parties with presence in the National Assembly and Senate had been invited to discuss Gilgit-Baltistan's future with the army chief.

"I can say this with authority [that] there was absolutely no conversation on the NAB," he said, referring to Pakistan's anti-graft watchdog, the National Accountability Bureau.

"Whoever reported this to the media is absolutely wrong," he said, adding, however, that the conversation had strayed from the main agenda — Gilgit-Baltistan — after PPP Senator Sherry Rehman complained that Prime Minister Imran Khan was not present at the meeting.

Read more: Khawaja Asif says Army chief, civilian leaders agreed on need for turning a new page in top-level huddle

"That's when the conversation turned towards why the army has to interfere in political matters; basically because politicians concede that space — that's where it went," Asif recalled.

"After [that conversation], the prime minister's absence [from the meeting] becomes a sort of testament that if he had been there and had taken charge of the situation, then the army chief or the military would not have had to invite the parliamentary leaders to discuss the issue [of Gilgit Baltistan] and it could have been discussed somewhere within one of the parliamentary rooms.

"The army chief discussed a lot of things but I want to maintain the decorum of the meeting and do not wish to discuss them here as they are not for public consumption and I do not wish to present them with a political angle," Asif said.