ISLAMABAD: Officially, little came out from Saturday’s meeting between the incoming premier, Nawaz Sharif, and army chief Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani. The Express Tribune, however, learnt on Sunday that the two sides agreed to ‘overhaul’ the country’s national security and foreign policies.
During the meeting, which lasted three-and-half hours, at Sharif’s Model Town residence in Lahore, the PML-N chief told Kayani that he plans to revisit the policies of the previous administration that have “not only damaged Pakistan’s relations with other countries but also hurt its national interest”.
A close aide to Nawaz told The Express Tribune that the security establishment will hold a detailed briefing on major national security and foreign policy issues for the new government once it is formally sworn in.
The aide quoted Gen Kayani as telling Nawaz that the army “fully respects the mandate given to his party and is ready to follow whatever policies he intends to pursue in the larger national interest”.
Reportedly, the army chief also put his weight behind PML-N’s efforts seeking an immediate end to the US drone campaign in the tribal belt. According to another source, Kayani told Nawaz that the security establishment had no ‘secret understanding’ with the US on its drone campaign. The source pointed out that the PML-N intends to raise the issue with the US administration as soon as it takes charge.
Saturday’s meeting was also aimed at dispelling the impression that PML-N’s election victory might put it at odds with the security establishment because of the ‘historic baggage’, said another PML-N leader.
Speaking on condition of anonymity, he said Nawaz assured Gen Kayani that he had “no grudge against the army as an institution” and that he was ready to work with it to steer the country out of crises.
“It [Kayani-Nawaz meeting] will have a calming effect and will smooth civil-military relations,” said political analyst Dr Ishtiaq Ahmed. “It will also certainly settle nerves in both camps,” he added.
Safe exit for Musharraf
Another issue that was thought to be discussed in Saturday’s meeting was the fate of former president Pervez Musharraf, who is currently under house arrest at his farmhouse on the outskirts of Islamabad.
PML-N sources said there was growing sense within the party’s ranks that Musharraf’s presence in the country and his possible trial could distract the new government from pressing issues. Therefore, if the former president is allowed to leave the country under the pretext of his mother’s ill health or any other reason, the party should not object to it.
While it is clear what the Sharifs intend to do, one party leader said: “If Musharraf leaves the country before the government takes charge, it will be a win-win situation.”
Reportedly, a message has been circulated within the army that Musharraf will be allowed to leave the country soon. The ‘message’ was conveyed in a bid to pacify growing unease within the army over the trial of its former chief.
A military official, when approached, referred to the statement of Gen Kayani he made on ‘Yaum-e-Shuhada’ last month emphasising that “It is not merely retribution, but awareness and participation of the masses that can truly end this game of hide and seek between democracy and dictatorship.”
When contacted, however, both the PML-N and the army refused to comment on the matter.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 20th, 2013.