Rift between Pakistan government, army over backing militant groups

Snub week for Nawaz Sharif
File Photo

ISLAMABAD/NEW DELHI (TIP):A media report suggesting that the Pakistan military has been asked not to “interfere” in action against militant groups considered “off limits” gave rise to heated speculation of a rift between the Nawaz Sharif government+ and the army brass even though the account was forcefully denied.

A report in Pakistan’s Dawn newspaper said a meeting of civilian leaders, including PM Nawaz Sharif and the ISI chief Rizwan Akhtar, on Monday saw foreign secretary Aizaz Chaudhry bluntly say that Pakistan faced diplomatic isolation+ and was under pressure to act against Jaish-e-Mohammed+ and the Haqqani network, and move forward on the Pathankot investigation.

The development seemed an attempt by Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to flex muscles against the army but the denial soon after dampened such expectations. The initial denial referred to “half truth” which was revised to “fabrication”, and the addition of a paragraph on the role of the army and ISI working against terrorists of “all hues” made it clear that Sharif had backtracked. The PM’s office said the report was misleading and an amalgam of “fiction and fabrication”.

The addition that “the intelligence agencies, particularly ISI, are working in line with the state policy in the best interest of the nation both at the federal and provincial levels” clearly underlined that the civilian “revolt” might be short-lived.

But the official denial could not quell speculation over a major publication carrying a detailed report about the Sharif government calling for an urgent change of direction with regard to jihadi organisations operating in Pakistan. Some Pakistan watchers felt the account of foreign secretary Aizaz Chaudhry’s remarks rang true given his proximity to Sharif.

Most observers feel the alleged takeaways from the meeting — Pakistan NSA Nasser Janjua and ISI chief Rizwan Akhtar are to ask ISI commanders not to prevent action against militants and fresh attempts are to be made to conclude the Mumbai and Pathankot probes —may never come to pass. There are doubts whether Sharif has the political will or clout to pursue such a policy. (PTI)

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