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PM advised to get tough with PTI

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LAHORE: The issue of extension in the service of the army chief, the opposition parties’ campaign targeting the personality of the prime minister and the challenges mounted by Imran Khan and others to the PML-N government were under the spotlight during discussions that took place at Nawaz Sharif’s Raiwind residence on Tuesday.

According to some insider

accounts, the “popular sentiment” in favour of an extension in the service of Gen Raheel Sharif was discussed at the meetings attended by the prime minister and some of his closest aides. But Information Minister Pervaiz Rashid rejected these reports as “baseless rumours”.

A source said members of the Sharif family “were not altogether unaware” of the posters that have come up in some cities, calling for “a takeover of the country” by the army chief.

ISPR says army has nothing to do with controversial posters
He said the controversial posters were indeed discussed at a closed-door meeting attended by the members of the family.

However, the minister denied that any such meeting had taken place. “These are matters of the state. They cannot be discussed (casually) over the dining table,” Mr Rashid told Dawn.

“Gen Raheel [Sharif] is the commander of Pakistan Army and is fighting against terrorists. The entire nation is behind him in this endeavour. We

should extend our complete support to him for elimination of terrorists.”

He said there was still a lot of time before the date of Gen Sharif’s retirement, indicating that the PML-N government was in no hurry to take a decision on the matter.

The information minister was not the only one who issued a denial on Tuesday. The spokesman for the army also did so, in which he said the military had nothing to do with the controversial posters and banners bearing the pictures of Gen Sharif.

In a tweet, the Director General of the Inter-Services Public Relations, Lt Gen Asim Bajwa, said: “Reference Posters with #COAS pic being displayed across various cities; Army or any affiliated organisation have nothing to do with it.”

Threat posed by Imran
It was learnt that Prime Minister Sharif had been rather angry about the “malicious propaganda”

unleashed against his person by some parties. The premier’s aides at the meetings reportedly advised him to devise a plan to counter only the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) chief, instead of working on too many plans simultaneously.

Imran Khan recently declared that he was now ready “to play the final round of matches” against the ruling party. And at the meetings in Raiwind, the prime minister was quoted as asking his advisers to prepare the ground for “multiple strategies” against the opposition parties.

However, according to sources, most of the premier’s aides called for a “single tough strategy” aimed at countering the threat posed by the PTI chairman.

A PML-N politician from Lahore remarked that “the PM’s body language is that of a leader determined to stand firm against his opponents”.

“He is in no mood to show leniency,” he said. Most of the people the prime minister had met recently had advised him to discard his old ‘soft’ approach and get tough with Mr Khan in particular, he added. These advisers were of the view that “defensive tactics” of the prime minister had served to embolden the PTI over time.

“Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has asked them [his advisers] to furnish their opinion, keeping in view the general election, and come up with proposals so that a comprehensive plan addressing all political concerns of the party could be devised,” the source said.

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