Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Qamar Javed Bajwa held a meeting with Prime Minister Imran Khan at his residence in Bani Gala on Friday. According to media sources, the COAS and PM Khan discussed the current political and security situation in the meeting. The Prime Minister was also briefed about the regional security situation, which had recently come into the limelight after the “inadvertent” launch of an Indian cruise missile into Pakistani territory.
The country’s political situation has been in rough waters for the past several weeks. The opposition has called for a no-confidence vote against the ruling party because of its “misgovernance” and “mismanagement” of the economy. The opposition-held long marches and rallies against the rising inflation and garnered strong public support in the process.
Pakistan’s Army Chief Bajwa has met PM Khan in the midst of an escalating political crisis. I’m sure that as usual we will be told they discussed “matters of mutual national, regional, and international interest.”
— Michael Kugelman (@MichaelKugelman) March 18, 2022
The situation was further aggravated when the ruling party raided the Parliament lodges on the pretext that the opposition was hiding members of Ansar-ul-Islam – a uniformed volunteer force – inside the lodges. The political situation recorded a low point when PTI supporters on Friday forcibly entered the Sindh house after reports emerged of horse-trading and MNA’s being forcibly detained inside the Sindh house.
Media footage showed PTI workers trying to forcibly enter the Sindh house by climbing over the walls, with a few of them later bringing down the gate to enter the building. The workers were also carrying lotas to record their protest against the dissenting lawmakers and “turncoats.” Shortly after, Islamabad Police cleared the area, arrested the rioters, and took them into its custody.
A first information report (FIR) was lodged against the protesters under section 427 (mischief causing damage), 186 (obstructing a public servant in discharge of public functions), 188 (disobedience to an order duly promulgated by a public servant), 147 (punishment for rioting) and 149 (members of an unlawful assembly being guilty of committing an offense in the prosecution of a common object) of the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC). Besides, the protests were taking place in the Red Zone, where all political activities are banned under Section 144 of the Pakistan Penal Code.
PPP Chairperson Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari equated the incident to an “act of terrorism,” an attack on Sindh.
“We don’t take law into our hands but we know how to deal with unruly elements,” he added.
Meanwhile, PML-N Vice President Maryam Nawaz said the “only option left [for the PTI] was thuggery,” but it would go wrong as well.
Ahead of the vote of no-confidence, which is likely to conclude before the end of this month, the Prime Ministers meeting with the Chief of Army Staff, especially at the Prime Ministers residence in Bani Gala, comes at a crucial point and signals that the military establishment and the political leadership are on the same page.
Last month, COAS Bajwa also called on PM Imran Khan at the PM’s Office, according to a statement.