AS PTI begins its long march on the Federal Capital, Pakistan Army, for the first time, has publicly spoken in categorical terms to clear the mist around several important issues that keep on agitating minds of the general public because of sustained propaganda.
The revelations and remarks made by two most relevant and senior representatives of the institution i.e. Director-General ISI Lt. General Nadeem Anjum and Director-General ISPR Lt. General Babar Iftikhar at their joint presser on Thursday smashed the anti-Army narrative, sent an unambiguous message to the people that the institution or the country’s premier intelligence agency, the ISI, has nothing to do with the broad-daylight killing of senior anchor Arshad Sharif in Kenya and brought further clarity to the controversy woven by PTI around the US cipher.
The joint press conference was unprecedented in that the head of the country’s most resourceful intelligence agency chose not only to face the media but also volunteered to share firsthand and authentic information that collaborated unofficial reports circulating in the national media vis-à-vis some relevant issues and developments.
General Nadeem Anjum, on the very first day of his assignment as DG, ISI opted not to remain in limelight and instead work silently in line with the dictates of his sensitive profession but had to interact with the media to respond effectively to the ongoing tirade against his agency and the institution.
There was a unanimity of views among unbiased segments of the national media that the candid views expressed by DGs of ISI and ISPR have punctured the baseless propaganda and deprived the PTI of its narrative on the eve of the long march.
PTI has consistently blamed the Army leadership of facilitating, what it calls, the imported government and goes to the extent of describing it as traitors, collaborators, handlers, neutrals and animals.
In this backdrop, it was amusing to hear from the DG, ISI that the then government, in March this year, offered to appoint General Qamar Javed Bajwa lifetime Army Chief if he plays his role to foil the no-confidence motion against the then Prime Minister but the incumbent COAS firmly declined the offer.
This shows PTI was willing to go to any extent if the Army continued to patronize its government in violation of the relevant constitutional provisions.
Similarly, the two Generals also confirmed that the PTI leadership while raising accusing fingers towards Army in the day, has been meeting Army leadership secretly during night, demanding favours that do not fall within the purview of the Army under the provisions of the Constitution.
Some PTI leaders claimed that there was nothing wrong in meeting General Bajwa as they did not make any unconstitutional demand but the very fact that the party wanted the Army to get them a date for early general election is an invitation to interference in purely political affairs.
The two DGs clarified that the Pakistan Army took an institutional decision to keep a distance from politics and that is why it did not oblige the PTI when it wanted the Army leadership to facilitate its political agenda.
They further clarified that the institutional decision of remaining apolitical has also been backed by those who would remain in the leadership role during the next about fifteen years and, therefore, the decision would be upheld irrespective of the change of the command, which augurs well for the country.
PTI tried to subvert the constitutional process of no-confidence motion on the basis of cipher issue but DG, ISPR revealed that the COAS himself discussed the cipher issue with the then Prime Minister on 11 March at Kamra when Imran Khan replied that it was not a big issue.
However, later, a paper was flashed at a public meeting in Islamabad on March 27 to build the narrative of foreign-inspired conspiracy to topple the government.
Lt-Gen Iftikhar said several facts regarding the cipher had surfaced so far, which exposed the “hollow and fabricated story”.
He added that the opinion of a Pakistani envoy was used by the former Prime Minister for his political interests.
The head of the military’s media wing said that there was a need to examine the situation “under which a false narrative has been made and people have been misled”.
“Institutions, leadership and even the chief of the army staff have been accused without a reason of creating an extraordinarily chaotic situation,” he added.
The killing of Arshad Sharif and its exploitation for political objectives also came under discussion during the joint presser with DG, ISPR revealing that they have information on the incident but were not making it public at this point in time.
The DG, ISI pointed out that a decision was taken not to make ISI part of the team investigating the probe to ensure full transparency in the backdrop of an accusatory propaganda campaign.
They clarified that the military was not aware of the threat alert regarding Arshad Sharif as this was issued by the KP Government.
Replying to questions, the two officers explained that staging protests or organizing long marches was no problem as this is one of the fundamental rights of the people.
However, they categorically stated that the Army would come to the aid of the civilian Government if a request was made for the purpose under Article-245 of the Constitution.
This is a clear message that there would be no meddling with genuine and peaceful political activities but attempts to create a law and order situation would not be tolerated.
We also have been emphasizing in these columns, time and again, that individuals and parties have the right to agitate and express themselves but this should be strictly within the parameters of the law and the Constitution.
The country has suffered a lot due to extended political instability, Coronavirus and the flood situation and needs peace and tranquility to restore normalcy.
The long march is beginning at a time when the Prime Minister is scheduled to visit China with a comprehensive agenda to consolidate economic collaboration with our great neighbor and the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia Mohammed bin Salman is also slated to visit Pakistan next month for talks on ways and means to forge economic ties.
These and some other developments have the potential to help Pakistan address its challenges and, therefore, it is the responsibility of the political leadership to cool down tempers for the sake of the country.