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Ice may melt as Nawaz accepts army's invite to attend parade

16 April, 2014

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ISLAMABAD: The ongoing rift between the civilian government and military command may ease in the coming days following Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's reported plan to attend a cadets' passing-out ceremony scheduled in the garrison city of Abbottabad, coming Saturday.

Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Raheel Sharif is said to have formally requested Prime Minister Nawaz to chair the 128th Long Course passing-out ceremony at the Pakistan Military Academy (PMA) on April 19. The request was sent in the form of an invitation card from the General Headquarters (GHQ) to the PM Secretariat sometime early last month. Sources in the PM Secretariat said the Secretariat had confirmed the premier's participation in the event over a month ago.

"The event was planned well in time. As per standard protocol, the armed forces, on behalf of their respective chiefs, invite the head of state or government, president or PM, to grace their respective important ceremonies. The invitation was the part of same practice," the officials said.

Last year, the then COAS General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani had chaired the 127th PMA Long Course passing-out parade. A military official, requesting not to be named, said the preparatory arrangements for the 128th PMA Long Course parade had started in March's first week following the confirmation from the PM Secretariat regarding the premier's participation in the ceremony.

"Such kind of invitations are not extended instantly because the security arrangements need to be taken care of, well beforehand. Other related arrangements also require sufficient time, not less than a few weeks," he said in an apparent attempt to downplay the event's significance in the backdrop of ongoing turn of events. Reports are rife about unease within the rank and file of the security establishment regarding the way the government is handling Pervez Musharraf's treason trial.

Following strong statements from two federal ministers, Khawaja Asif and Khawaja Saad Rafiq, in this context, some pro-establishment circles have recently demanded Asif's resignation as defence minister. No official word from the PM Secretariat has come on this count amid assumptions that all was not well between the elected political leadership and the army command.

According to a media report a meeting between Prime Minister Nawaz and Chief of Army Staff General Raheel Sharif is expected to take place soon. The meeting will discuss the statements issued by the federal ministers, which has been creating tension between the government and the army, the channel quoted sources as saying.

Sources further said that General Raheel Sharif will inform the premier about the growing concern and anxiety in military ranks due to the statements. It was further reported that the disputed statements were also discussed in the meeting of the corps commanders.

End.

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