PRESIDENT Dr Arif Alvi has done well by distancing himself from the highly controversial and damaging remarks of Chairman Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) Imran Khan about appointment of the next Army Chief rightly pointing out that there should be no doubt about the patriotism of Jawans to generals.
Talking to Peshawar-based journalists he minced no words in declaring that all chiefs of army staff (COAS), who have been appointed in Pakistan, are patriotic, urging the people of Pakistan, institutions and media to desist from stirring doubts and controversies on the matter.
Sensing the gravity of the issue, the President also suggested that Imran Khan should himself clarify his remarks.
The statement of the President assumes greater significance and relevance as it was delivered immediately after the incident despite the fact that Dr.Arif Alvi has a deep commitment to the cause of his erstwhile party.
His reaction to the statement is understandable as the President is the Supreme Commander of the defence forces and is expected to do everything within his powers to defend them, uphold their honour and dignity and promote their cause.
He also pointed out that the defence forces had successfully safeguarded the country from external and internal threats by rendering countless sacrifices and coming to aid of civil administration in the face of natural calamities.
The President is quite vocal as far as respect for national institutions is concerned and during his recent interaction with media men, he had been urging all not to make institutions controversial as it would harm the interests of the country.
However, the anti-institutions’ rhetoric is assuming dangerous dimensions with the passage of every day and the latest remarks of the former PM Imran Khan are reflective of the urgency to take practical measures to check this tendency before it is too late.
This is because earlier Dr.Shahbaz Gill churned out a live statement, which was seen as an attempt to incite junior ranks against implementation of orders of the seniors in Pakistan Army and Gill is behind bars on sedition charges.
And now a statement has been made that amounts to an attempt to divide the top leadership of the Pakistan Army between good and bad, which is highly unfortunate.
Feeble attempts have been made by second tier leaders of PTI like Fawad Chaudhry and Asad Omer claiming that their Chairman only highlighted that corrupt people should not have any role in deciding key appointments in the defence forces.
All generals are patriotic but Imran Khan claimed Nawaz and Zardari were afraid of patriotic and strong choices for the coveted slot of the COAS as they wanted to protect their ‘loot and plunder’.
The remarks were quite categorical and left no ambiguity about what Imran meant and that is why these evoked a strong reaction not only from the Inter-Service Public Relations (ISPR) but also from the otherwise lenient Chief Justice of Islamabad High Court (IHC) Justice Athar Minallah.
A statement issued by the ISPR highlighted the dismay and anger of Pakistan Army at the defamatory and uncalled statement by Imran Khan against its senior leadership at an election rally in Faisalabad.
It pointed out that politicizing the senior leadership of Pakistan Army and scandalizing the process of selection of COAS is neither in the interest of the State of Pakistan nor of the institution.
Reacting to the statement, the Chief Justice of IHC said everything has been put at stake for a ‘game of thrones’, adding that every citizen is patriotic and no one has the authority to give a certificate of patriotism.
In this backdrop, people of Pakistan expect the President to move beyond verbal statements and take practical steps to help reduce the political tension and prevent mud-slinging against national institutions.
The President is a symbol of the Federation and he is duty bound to act when there are indications of harm to the federation.
Recent remarks and statements of the President have sent positive signals about his office improving prospects for success of any sincere efforts Dr Alvi makes to promote national reconciliation, which is the need of the hour in view of the complex challenges facing the country these days.
The President has an opportunity to play a role in history as an honest broker and we hope he will not miss this opportunity.