Wednesday, March 08, 2023
KARACHI/ISLAMABAD: Despite Fawad Chaudhry’s claim that Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairperson Imran Khan not seeking a meeting with Chief of Army Staff (COAS) Gen Asim Munir, anchorperson Shahzeb Khanzada, citing sources, reported that the former prime minister had indeed sent a message to the army chief but the request was turned down.
The anchor of Geo News programme “Aaj Shahzeb Khanzada Kay Saath” said Gen Asim told the businessmen meeting him Monday night that PTI chief Imran Khan sent him a message seeking a meeting.
The anchor, quoting unnamed sources, said that Gen Asim informed the PTI chief that it was not his job as army chief to meet politicians.
“Gen Asim asserted that the army would neither interfere in politics nor would play any role in it,” sources told the anchor. The army chief maintained that he would not interfere in political matters and the political leadership itself should resolve its issues.
Speaking in the programme, senior anchorperson Hamid Mir said President Arif Alvi had tried to arrange a meeting between Gen Asim and Imran Khan. The army chief told the president that he wants to stay away from politics, Mir added.
“Chairman Imran Khan has never made any request to meet Army chief or any of his representatives likewise President has never approached Chairman PTI with any suggestion of Army Chief for meeting Shahbaz Sharif, speculations in this regard are baseless,” tweeted the former information minister.
The tweet had come in response to journalist Kamran Khan's claims that the army chief had told business leaders in a meeting that he was trying to ensure that Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and Khan meet each other to resolve the country's crisis.
The journalist also claimed that Khan was insistent on meeting the army chief only.
According to The News, the army chief, in the meeting with the top 10 businessmen of the country, assured them in the presence of Finance Minister Ishaq Dar that the looming default threat was over and the “worst is behind us” and Pakistan will prevail as a nation.
The military’s media wing, Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR), is yet to comment on the meeting, but sources said the army chief was optimistic throughout the meeting and was confident that the current economic difficulties would be overcome. He asked the businessmen to stay firm and confident.
According to a source, the army chief told the top businessmen representing different sectors that nations face difficult times and we are also facing tough times, but the worst is behind us and we will prevail. General Asim repeatedly referred to Islamic teachings to assure his audience that Pakistan will successfully overcome the present testing times.
One of the participants, who spoke to the publication on the condition of anonymity, said the businessmen had requested the army chief for the meeting.
The finance minister was invited by the army chief to attend the session, which was termed very successful by the businessmen, the report stated.
The businessmen were told by the army chief and the finance minister all prior conditions of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) had been met and the Staff-Level Agreement would be secured within days.
The huddle was informed the IMF has asked that agreements with friendly countries for the provision of dollars to boost the country’s foreign exchange reserves should also be documented.
The businessmen were told commitments had been secured from friendly countries for investments in agriculture, mining and IT. The government expects advanced equity from these countries. It was said the civil and military leadership acted in tandem for securing these commitments.
According to a source, the army chief was questioned by the businessmen about why the establishment was not making politicians sit together to overcome the serious challenges faced by the country.
The businessmen conveyed to the army chief the nation expected the military would not allow polarisation and chaos to deepen any further.
At this, the army chief said the military was playing its role and trying to develop unanimity, the source said.
It was also said by one of those present in the meeting that there was only one hurdle in reaching the much-needed unanimity.
Ten businessmen – five each from Lahore and Karachi – met the army chief.
Meanwhile, PTI leader Fawad Chaudhry strongly criticised the business community leaders who met the army chief to share their concerns on the worsening economic situation.
"The members of the business community who called on the COAS are the same who meet every army chief and government and advice on how to fix Pakistan's problems. Their only concern is to secure their business interests."
The former federal minister said, "Pakistan's real problems are the interest of these groups".
Fawad added that there can be no economic stability in absence of political stability