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Shahbaz praises COAS to gain political ascendancy

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Chief Minister Punjab and Pakistan Muslim League- Nawaz (PML-N) President offered an olive branch to the military establishment. He stressed that the military should work along with the civilian administration for toppling the challenges faced by the country. Earlier, media had speculated that Shahbaz has met the army Chief Qamar Javed Bajwa before leaving for London.  

On March 19, Inter-Services Public Relations Pakistan (ISPR) tweeted that “News about meeting of Army Chief with CM Punjab twice during last 72 hours being reported by a media house is baseless and highly irresponsible. No such meeting has taken place”. These reports were strongly denied by the ISPR in a tweet and the news of a secret meeting was termed as baseless.

PML-N is aware that tide is not in its favor. The expected unfavorable decision in accountability court, Ahad Cheema’s arrest, and Fawad Hassan Fawad’s possible arrest is a big blow to the house of Sharif, and is an apparent testimony to its alleged involvement in corruption.

But, after returning to the country, Shahbaz Sharif has expressed support for the army chief. It is an interesting development as his elder brother has, sometime explicitly and more often indirectly, blamed the military establishment for his ousting. However, rather surprisingly, the disqualified PM Nawaz has adopted a rather sombre tone in last week or so, regarding the military establishment and even gave a call for consultation between the institutions.

On March 17 in Pakistan and then again on March 23 via a video link from London, PML-N’s president and Chief Minister Punjab also dramatically asked the generals and top judges to sit with the politicians and solve the issues for the sake of Pakistan.

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Prime Minister Shahid Haqqan Abbasi also held back to attend meetings with Chairman Joint Chief of Staff Committee (JCSC) General Zubair Hayat at General Headquarters on March 26 and Chief Justice of Pakistan Nisar Saqib on March 27 to pave way for Sharifs, apparently pointed towards ongoing agenda of Sharifs to receive some respite in ongoing accountability court cases.

Analysts and commentators believe that this is not a new move from Shehbaz Sharif. In past too, he uttered such rhetoric to cool down the animosity between elder brother Nawaz Sharif and military establishment. Despite the fact that military has categorically denied the meeting between the new PML-N president and COAS. Shahbaz is trying to give an impression that meeting indeed took place.

Chief Minister Punjab and Pakistan Muslim League- Nawaz (PML-N) President offered an olive branch to the military establishment. He stressed that the military should work along with the civilian administration for toppling the challenges faced by the country.

Supreme Court of Pakistan, on call of judicial martial law from Awami Muslim League leader Sheikh Rasheed categorically negated the reckless statement from the maverick Rasheed. Apex court has assured that no judicial martial law or NRO is in the works and CJP Saqib Nisar had said while addressing the Pakistan day ceremony that ‘there is no question of martial law’. And there is no concept of judicial martial law in the constitution.

After much debate on Bajwa doctrine, ISPR had also distanced itself from any rhetoric over undemocratic activities and termed the political narrative built by certain media outlets as false and complete misinformation. Director General (DG) Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) Major General Ghafoor clarified that Bajwa doctrine has limited scope restricted to security measures only.

Read more: Is Shahbaz Sharif diverting public attention from divisions within PML-N?

It appears that security establishment is not favoring PML-N as it apparently did prior to 2013 general elections. This message is crucial in a context that in 2013, PML-N had given an impression that military establishment was supporting Nawaz’s political agenda. But, this time around, it doesn’t appear to be the case. Being the biggest party in Punjab, historically PML-N has given this impression of support from GHQ.

In an attempt to gain Army support, Shahbaz has all of sudden found COAS professional and straightforward and has been stating that we must respect and honor his efforts for safeguarding national interests. It is not surprising that Shahbaz is praising COAS right at the brink of 2018 elections, when the incumbent government has the only couple of months left in the office. 

Analysts and commentators believe that this is not a new move from Shehbaz Sharif. In past too, he uttered such rhetoric to cool down the animosity between elder brother Nawaz Sharif and military establishment.

PML-N is aware that tide is not in its favor. The expected unfavorable decision in accountability court, Ahad Cheema’s arrest, and Fawad Hassan Fawad’s possible arrest is a big blow to the house of Sharif, and is an apparent testimony to its alleged involvement in corruption.

Read more: Cracks in the PML-N: Riaz Pirzada wants Shahbaz Sharif to head…

The younger Sharif is also aware of upcoming political challenges given the extreme position of Nawaz against judiciary and establishment. The proximity between PML-N and military has evaporated, Shahbaz is making a last-ditch effort to assure the public, nothing is lost and PML-N and military establishment will work together to counter challenges facing the country.

This narrative is only built to gain momentum in Punjab, citing the support of the powerful military establishment, which is although erroneous but if media engineering works, it can sell and could result in some dividend for the beleaguered Sharif’s.

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