Mohammad Zubair twice met Army chief: DG ISPR

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ISLAMABAD: Pakistan Army on Wednesday disclosed that former Sindh governor Mohammad Zubair had twice reached out to Chief of the Army Staff Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa and discussed political and legal woes of deposed prime minister Nawaz Sharif and his daughter Maryam Nawaz in the past few weeks.

“Mr Zubair twice met the army chief, once in the last week of August and then on September 7 in the presence of director general ISI,” revealed military spokesman Major General Babar Iftikhar in a TV talk show. Both meetings, he said, were held on Mr Zubair’s request.

“In those meetings he (Mr Zubair) talked about Mr Nawaz Sharif and Ms Maryam Nawaz,” the director-general of Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) said.

The disclosure by the DG ISPR came just hours after PML-N’s senior vice-president and former prime minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi told a news conference in Lahore that none of the party members had held one-on-one meeting with the army chief in the recent past.

This is the second time this week that opposition leaders’ secret contacts with the military leadership were made public. The disclosures follow Mr Nawaz’s hard-hitting speech at the opposition’s September 20 multiparty conference in which he had lashed out at the army, saying there was “a state above the state in the country” and the conference’s communique calling for an end to “establishment’s interference in politics” and “no role of armed forces and intelligence agencies” in future elections.

Earlier on Sept 21, a day after the opposition’s multiparty conference, federal Railways Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed revealed that major opposition figures, including Leader of the Opposition Shahbaz Sharif, PML-N’s parliamentary leader in National Assembly Khawaja Asif and PML-N secretary general Ahsan Iqbal, had met the COAS and the DG ISI in recent days.

The interaction was held on military’s invitation for a discussion on the impending changes in the constitutional status of Gilgit-Baltistan though political issues and opposition’s concerns also came up for the discussion.

Major Gen Babar said the COAS during his two meetings with PML-N leader and ex-governor Mohammad Zubair “made it clear to him that their [Sharifs] legal issues would be addressed in court, while political matters were to be dealt with the parliament”.

The military spokesman added that Mr Zubair was categorically conveyed that the military should be kept out of political matters.

Also appearing on television channels afterwards and later through his official social media account on Twitter, the former governor did confirm his contacts with the military leadership while claiming that he had gone to discuss economic issues. However, he admitted, Nawaz Sharif and his daughter Maryam did come up for discussion.

“Gen Qamar Bajwa is an old friend and not only that I have met him many times as a friend but our families have also been meeting cordially over dinners etc. In my most recent meeting with him economy, politics and, of course, Nawaz Sharif and Maryam Nawaz, all came under discussion. No relief was ever requested,” tweeted Mr Zubair.

Talking to one of the TV channels, Mr Zubair expressed his surprise over the DG ISPR’s statement. “Such meetings are secret. I don’t understand as to why the army spokesperson needs to talk on [my meeting with the army chief] it,” he said.

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