Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) Director General Maj Gen Babar Iftikhar has said that the military has no objection whatsoever if a judicial commission is set up to probe into the PTI’s claims that Imran Khan had been ousted from power through a foreign conspiracy.
“Whatever commission the government forms, the military will extend full cooperation,” Gen Babar said in a TV interview on Wednesday night.
“The incumbent government has this option. The previous government also had this option,” the military spokesperson said.
President Dr Arif Alvi has already written a letter to the Chief Justice of Pakistan calling for a judicial inquiry to settle this crucial matter that involves national security.
In another television interview a day ago, the military spokesperson said that the National Security Committee (NSC) was clearly told in its 37th meeting that the intelligence agencies had not found evidence of any “foreign conspiracy” against the PTI government.
Former senior minister Asad Umar on Wednesday sought to call it an opinion of the DG ISPR, saying that he did not agree that “since it is a matter of national security, the army’s opinion should be considered the final word.”
But Maj Gen Babar said in his fresh interview that it wasn’t an opinion – rather whatever he said was based on the reports of the intelligence agencies. He added that he is the spokesperson for the armed forces of Pakistan and that he had spoken on behalf of the three services chiefs who attended the NSC meeting.
“All the services chiefs had clearly stated their stance during the NSC meeting. And none of them said a conspiracy was hatched,” the DG ISPR said while referring to the 37th NSC meeting on March 31, 2022. “The word conspiracy was not written in the statement issued at the end of the NSC meeting,” he added.
In that meeting, the national security adviser had briefed the participants on a “formal communication” of a senior official of a foreign country to Pakistan’s ambassador in the said country in a formal meeting, which was duly conveyed by the ambassador to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
“The committee expressed grave concern at the communication, terming the language used by the foreign official as undiplomatic,” read a statement issued by the PM Office after the meeting.
The committee concluded that the communication amounted to “blatant interference in the internal affairs of Pakistan by the country in question, which was unacceptable under any circumstances”.
The meeting, chaired by then prime minister Imran Khan, decided that a demarche would be issued both in Islamabad and in the foreign country’s capital through proper channel in keeping with the diplomatic norms.
PTI REACTS: Meanwhile, the PTI leaders took strong exceptions to the DG ISPR’s statement that there was no evidence of any “foreign conspiracy” behind the ouster of Imran Khan’s government, saying the chief military spokesperson “should not interpret the political matters”.
Addressing a news conference in the federal capital on Wednesday, PTI Secretary General and former federal minister Asad Umar said the military spokesperson “should not interpret the political matters”.
He maintained that the words “foreign interference” had been used in the cypher.
“All these facts were mentioned in the cypher. It was said that Pakistan would face hard times if the no-confidence motion failed. Pakistan was directly threatened in the cypher,” Umar said, adding that he and PTI leader Dr Shireen Mazari were present in the first NSC.
Umar said that Imran, as PTI chairman, would write a letter to the Supreme Court to conduct an inquiry into the matter.
“We want a judicial commission to be formed and the facts be brought before the nation. Defending the national security is also the responsibility of the elected leadership,” he said.
“Imran Khan is not saying that his analysis should be accepted. His only demand is that the nation has the right to know the truth,” he added.
Speaking on the occasion, Dr Mazari noted that the “controversy will not end if the investigation is not carried out”.
“We want that nothing of this sort happens again. Imran Khan’s decision to go to Russia was taken after much consultation. The American ‘conspiracy model’ already existed. We are saying that America is not doing this for the first time,” she said during the news conference.
Separately, on her Twitter handle, she wrote: “With due respect to ISPR DG’s statement on the cipher not being reflective of [a] regime change conspiracy but merely of an unacceptable interference in our internal affairs, clearly, there is a difference in interpretation & it is wrong to label those disagreeing as basically liars”.
Interestingly, President of Pakistan, Dr Arif Alvi, has written an official letter to Chief Justice Umar Atta Bandial asking for a judicial inquiry into the claim of foreign conspiracy.
“You were asking me a question that since it is a matter of national security, so the army has the final word on the issue, [but] with due respect, I don’t agree with this,” Umar said in a TV talk-show.
“[The] President of Pakistan’s letter to the chief justice remains unanswered. A judicial commission should hold open hearings and whether there was a conspiracy will be settled once and for all. That there was blatant external interference has been ratified twice by the NSC,” Umar said.
Dr Mazari also said that a judicial probe should settle this controversy. “There are too many unanswered troubling questions. The most rational way to resolve what is a critical issue for our nation is for the honourable CJP to respond positively to President Alvi’s letter seeking a judicial probe on the cipher. This is the only way forward to put the matter to rest,” she added.
Other former ministers, including Babar Awan, Shahbaz Gill and Hammad Azhar also took to Twitter to share their reaction to the DG ISPR’s statement. Gill said the cipher sent by Pakistan’s envoy to the US should be de-classified along with the minutes of the NSC meeting. “This will clear up everything,” he added.
He asked whether the services chiefs had acknowledged the cipher as “foreign interference” during the NSC meeting and endorsed the decision to lodge a diplomatic protest. “If the answer is yes, then why they are giving such explanations,” he added.
Azhar said one could use the word “interference” instead of “conspiracy”, but that didn’t change the fact that the PML-N and its allies were brought to power through a foreign state’s interference.
Awan urged the Supreme Court to probe the alleged conspiracy so “foreign and local” elements involved in it could be exposed. “This is an issue of national interest,” he added.