THE incumbent Director-General, Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) Major-General Babar Iftikhar must be given credit for staying calm and responding to even unpleasant questions in a calculated and well-thought-out manner during his interaction with the media. That is why the remarks he coolly delivered at the news conference on Monday have gone well with the people of Pakistan in the backdrop of allegations being hurled about Army’s growing interference in the political affairs of the country.
As leaders of Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) especially its head Maulana Fazlur Rehman was repeating his accusations that there was no true democracy in the country and that an unannounced martial law was in place, threatening to march towards Rawalpindi to lodge a protest, General Babar categorically stated that the military was subordinate to the government and totally apolitical having absolutely no backdoor contact with the opposition parties as was being speculated in the media. He explained that neither the military needed to indulge in politics nor should any attempt be made to drag it into politics. His clear-headedness about the role and responsibility of his institution also became evident when, responding to a question, General Babar said there was no reason for Maulana Fazlur Rehman to march on Rawalpindi but if PDM leaders did come they would be offered refreshment. Rightly or wrongly an impression does exist about the Army’s mingling into political domain and this has become a hot topic in traditional as well as social media. The military leadership has done well by not getting provoked by such accusations and instead trying to remove the impression both through verbal assurances as well as actions. It is also a fact that the military did not assume responsibilities vis-à-vis general election 2018 and helped conduct the poll after its cooperation was sought by the then caretaker government and the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP). Political and parliamentary leaders need to come out with some better ideas if involvement of the Army is not desired on such occasions. It is unfortunate that institutions are targeted because of vested interests and this does not augur well for the country. This is important as armed forces have been rendering unprecedented sacrifices in their war against terror and instead of criticism they need appreciation and support of each and every citizen to discharge their obligations seamlessly.