Fresh controversy erupted after Pakistan’s powerful Army Chief met Premier Nawaz Sharif on Monday to discuss ways to resolve the deepening political crisis with media reports claiming that the embattled prime minister was advised to step down during the meeting.
After TV channels reported that Army Chief General Raheel Sharif has advised Prime Minister Sharif to step down, both the government and military issued separate denials, dismissing the claims as “baseless”.
Duniya TV reported that Gen Sharif has asked the Prime Minister to resign for a temporary three-month period as demanded by protesters to let an independent commission probe alleged rigging in last year’s general election.
Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf chairman Imran Khan and Tahir-ul-Qadri of the Pakistan Awami Tehreek have been demanding that Sharif should step down for a limited period so that claims of rigging can be investigated.
A government spokesperson immediately denied and denounced rumours broadcast on TV channels. The spokesperson termed the rumours “baseless” and “fake”.
Military spokesperson Major Gen Asim Bajwa also denied the reports, tweeting, “News of #Army #Chief asking #PM to resign or going on leave is baseless.”
Prime Minister Sharif’s daughter Maryam Nawaz Sharif also dismissed the news reports as “disinformation”.
The Army chief and the PM discussed the prevailing security and political situation, said a senior leader of Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz.
Gen Sharif also informed the Premier about Sunday’s meeting of corps commanders. “The Prime Minister affirmed that no decision against the Constitution of the country and the will of Parliament will be taken,” the PML-N leader said.
Reaffirming “support to democracy”, the army on Sunday reviewed with “serious concern”, the existing political crisis and the violent turn it has taken, resulting in large scale injuries and loss of lives.
The generals, who have ruled Pakistan for more than half of its history since independence from Britain in 1947, said that the “situation should be resolved politically without wasting any time and without recourse to violent means”.
Khan wants the PML-N government’s ouster over alleged rigging in last year’s poll which his party lost, while Qadri wants to bring a revolution in the country. Both the leaders are agitating since August 14.