While President Arif Alvi has all but distanced himself from his party chief’s statement about the army chief’s appointment, saying that the latter should himself clarify it, senior Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) leaders on Monday said the ex-premier meant to say corrupt leaders should not have the right to nominate the chief of army staff.

PTI Senior Vice President Fawad Chaudhry told a news conference that Imran Khan had just asked whether corrupt people should have the option to make important appointments. The Pakistan Army and PTI think alike and both want to protect the country, he said, adding that all the generals were loyal to Pakistan and their loyalty was beyond any doubt.

“Army is a sacred institution and Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) did politics over it in the past. A conspiracy was hatched to bring the current govt into power despite having minority in the parliament,” he said.

“In the past, during public meetings of Maryam Nawaz, slogans were chanted against the army. I want to ask that how people, who are corrupt and security risk, can do appointments. How a person who has fled Pakistan [Nawaz Sharif] will give permission for the appointment of next army chief?” he said.

After military’s media wing issued a statement, Fawad also tweeted that the ISPR had no need to issue statement as he had already clarified the stance of PTI during his press conference.

Also, PTI Central Secretary General Asad Umar said Imran Khan’s statement on the army chief’s appointment had already been clarified.

He said there was never an intent to cause harm to the reputation of the institution or its senior leadership.

The PTI and its chief always fully appreciated professionalism and sacrifices of the army personnel, he said, explaining that Mr Khan’s emphasis on upholding the principle of merit was consistent with the desire to protect the professionalism of the force.

Ex-minister Shireen Mazari, in a statement, said Imran Khan gave a statement about the army chief’s appointment, as ruling parties PPP and PML-N were doing politics over it. “There is a long history of opposing armed forces by both parties. On the other hand, Imran Khan’s statement is being misquoting despite clarification,” she added.

President Alvi, however, during an informal chat with journalists at Governor House, Peshawar, distanced himself from the statement explaining that the former premier should himself clarify his remarks.

Regarding armed forces, he said: “All the army is patriotic.”

He also said he was playing his role to reduce tensions between the opposition and the government, a day after Fawad denied any backdoor talks between his party and the PML-N.

However, the president did not elaborate further on the role to reduce the tension.

About the Pakistan Army, President Alvi said “the entire military is patriotic, including the army chief, whose loyalty is beyond doubt”. At the same time, “the one who makes the comments should be the one to explain himself.”

“I am not working towards building a national government, rather I hope to bring everyone to the same table,” he continued. “I meet the prime minister regularly. If we are not in communication then there is no distance either,” he added.

“If we achieve transparency then the mistrust between the provinces will also end,” he added.

The president also reiterated the coalition government’s stance that the country had managed to “escape economic pressures” and the deal with the international money lender – the IMF was “better”. He also remained optimistic that “the other institutions will cooperate now” and hoped “inflation will end soon”.

President Alvi stated that the, “Social media is an animal that shouldn’t be given too much importance,” but he nonetheless maintaned that it “cannot be regulated” and “we must learn to live with it”. However, “whoever speaks,” he said, “should speak carefully”.

In an apparent nod to the audio leak that stirred controversy over the PTI’s alleged attempts to employ ‘hardball tactics’ to thrust the crucial loan into “jeopardy”, the president said “tapping people’s phones is dangerous” but dismissed it as something that “happens all over the world”.

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