The Army has taken a “strong exception” to “intensified and deliberate attempts” to drag its name into the country’s ongoing political discourse by “some political leaders, journalists and analysts”, according to a press release issued by the Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR) on Sunday.
The military’s media wing noted that attempts to involve the armed forces and its senior leadership in the political discourse were “manifest through direct, insinuated or nuanced references made by some political leaders, few journalists and analysts on public forums and various communication platforms, including social media”.
“This practice of unsubstantiated, defamatory and provocative statements/remarks is extremely damaging,” the ISPR said.
It added that the military took strong exception to such “unlawful and unethical practices” and expected everyone to abide by the law and keep the armed forces out of political discourse in the “best interest of the country”.
The ISPR statement did not specify which incident or incidents it was referring to. However, it is pertinent to mention here that Punjab Governor Omar Sarfraz Cheema has sought the army’s intervention to lead the province out of the crises plaguing it for months despite the armed forces repeatedly refusing to be pushed into the country’s perpetual political quagmire.
On Thursday, the governor wrote a letter to Chief of Army Staff Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa, requesting him to play a defining role in the current chaotic times, as he was of the opinion that the constitutional crisis-ridden Punjab had been held hostage.
Last month, senior retired army officials termed audio clips attributed to them, in which statements were given against the Pakistan Army and its leadership, “fake” and a “conspiracy against the Pakistan Army”.
The clarifications from the retired army officials had come two days after the country’s military leadership took notice of an ongoing “propaganda campaign” against the army on social media and endorsed the position taken by the army’s leadership on the political crisis in the country that climaxed with ex-premier Imran Khan’s ouster.
The military came under criticism last month, especially in the wake of Imran’s ouster through a successful vote of no-confidence. Trends against the armed forces and its leadership saw intense activity on social media platforms such as Twitter.
The ‘Imported Hukoomat Namanzur’ (imported government unacceptable) hashtag in Urdu alone generated more than 17 million tweets, while one anti-army hashtag generated over 69,000 tweets and a similar one over 410,000 tweets in the past few days.
The Federal Investigation Agency had also launched a crackdown against those allegedly involved in running these online campaigns and was making arrests.
The watchdog has also initiated an inquiry against Bol anchorperson Sami Ibrahim for allegedly transmitting “anti-state” videos and statements on various social media platforms, including regarding the army.
Punjab Governor Omar Sarfraz Cheema, who refused to endorse the election of Punjab chief minister and sought military’s intervention to resolve the ‘constitutional crisis’ in the province, said in a statement that “If army chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa can provide me just one subedar and four soldiers, I will arrest this ‘unconstitutional, illegal and fake’ chief minister [Hamza Shehbaz] and send him to jail.”
Similarly, the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) also detained those allegedly involved in running smear campaigns on social media to defame the military and its top leadership after Imran Khan lost no-trust vote and PML-N President Shehbaz Sharif became the prime minister.
At a recent public gathering, PML-N Vice President Maryam Nawaz said that former prime minister Imran Khan only lasted in office for over three years as he had the support of a former intelligence officer.
“When the government lost his support, it fell instantly.”
On Thursday, former PM and PTI Chairman Imran said he could not even think of appointing an army chief against the rules of merit and rubbished speculations that he wanted to appoint former Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) director general Lt Gen Faiz Hameed as new army chief.