Army had no role in Nawaz Sharif’s ouster: Pakistan Army chief Bajwa

Islamabad—Pakistan’s powerful Army Chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa has rejected as “unfounded” the impression that the army was behind the ouster of prime minister Nawaz Sharif and said he was an ardent supporter of democracy.     

Sharif, 67, stepped down after a Supreme Court bench disqualified him on July 28 from continuing in his office for dishonesty in the Panama Papers case and ruled that corruption cases be filed against him and his children over the scandal.     

Gen Bajwa was responding to questions by members of defence committees of the National Assembly and Senate who visited General Headquarters (GHQ) yesterday.     

The parliamentarians had raised many of the oft-discussed issues including security operations, military courts, defence budget, engagement with the US, tensions with India, problems in relations with Afghanistan, and civil-military relations, Dawn reported.     

Gen Bajwa dismissed rumours of the army’s alleged role in the Panama Papers case as “unfounded” and told the parliamentarians that he was an ardent supporter of democracy and believed in the supremacy of parliament, the paper said.    

“One of the parliamentarians, quoting the army chief, said the military had no role in ex-prime minister Nawaz Sharif’s ouster, and for him, the current prime minister was as good as the previous one,” the paper said.     

The powerful army, which enjoys considerable influence over policy decisions in Pakistan, has ruled the country for much of its life since it gained independence 70 years ago.

Last month, Sharif had termed his disqualification by the Supreme Court as a humiliation and said the “conspiracies” to oust him from the premiership had begun over three years ago.     

During a brief stay in London this week before heading out to New York for the UN General Assembly session, Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi had said conspiracies against the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz government were continuing.     

Talking about the perception that the defence budget consumed a major portion of national resources, Gen Bajwa said that it comprised nearly 18 per cent of the total budgetary outlay. He added that more money was required, particularly in view of certain acquisitions that had to be made, some of which were overdue.     

On the subject of foreign relations, he underscored that putting the house in order was a prerequisite for getting a respectful position in the comity of nations. As a principle, he said, Pakistan desired good relations with all other countries especially the neighbours.     

Gen Bajwa said he was ready to appear before the defence committee or any ‘committee of the whole House’ and answer any queries that the parliamentarians might have. He also said he had congratulated Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif over the PML-N’s victory in NA-120 (Lahore) bypoll in which Nawaz Sharif’s wife Begum Kulsoom Nawaz was elected on the National Assembly seat vacated by her husband.     

One of the participants in the meeting said that the engagement was meant to showcase the army’s achievements and to highlight the challenges it was facing. The interactive session, which was originally planned for 30 minutes, went on for nearly three hours, the paper said.     

In a statement, the army said the delegation was given a detailed briefing on the evolving security environment including the situation at the borders and Pakistan’s Army efforts for peace and security.   

“The session (with Gen Bajwa) concluded with the resolve to continue our struggle against the menace of violent extremism through a synergetic, whole-of-the-nation approach based on the principle of collective potential and shared responsibility,” it added.

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