Army chief Gen Raheel Sharif on Monday embarked on a trip to the US, where he is expected to hold talks with the American military on the turbulent situation in Afghanistan and the political scenario within Pakistan.
The visit was at the centre of a media controversy after US defence officials told journalists that Sharif was coming without an invitation and that meetings had been arranged at his request.
The Pakistan Army was quick to clarify the visit had not come about at the behest of powerful general. In an advisory sent to media groups, the army insisted the US government had invited Sharif to Washington. “We were told to scrap news that suggested the visit was at the request of Gen Raheel,” said a journalist who did not want to be named.
This is Sharif’s second visit to the US this year, and comes a month after Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif travelled to Washington for talks with President Barack Obama. The general is scheduled to meet senior military officials and Vice President Joe Biden.
On Sunday, chief military spokesman Lt Gen Asim Bajwa told the media that the army chief will discuss the security situation in the region with US civil and military officials.
Bajwa told a news conference in Washington that Pakistan is committed to facilitating an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace process in the war-torn country.
With the general’s retirement coming up, the talks could help the Pakistan Army ascertain whether any move to give an extension to Sharif will have the blessings of Washington.
“It is a significant visit and we will see political developments in the country following this,” said analyst Qaiser Mehmood.