Setting the Record Straight

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Setting the Record Straight

At a time of deepening political polarization and growing confrontation in the country, Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) Director General (DG) Maj-Gen Babar Iftikhar has tried to calm nerves, dispel the impression of any conspiracy against an elected government and to categorically announce that the mighty institution of the armed forces remains “apolitical” in line with its constitutional mandate.

The much-anticipated press conference of DG ISPR on Thursday has generally been hailed by analysts, the key mainstream political parties and the media.

Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari, Chairman of the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), in a tweet called DG ISPR Maj-Gen Babar’s press conference “a breath of fresh air for democracy.”

“It is the responsibility not only of every institution, but every Pakistani to support democracy, constitution and rule of law,” he said.

Leading political commentator and anchor-person, Moeed Pirzada, tweeted that it was an “excellent press briefing and handling of questions by DG ISPR in a difficult and tense atmosphere! And very important clarification on issues that troubled many minds.”


In his detailed talk, Maj-Gen Babar Iftikhar clarified many important points, including the raging debate on the alleged U.S conspiracy to oust Imran Khan’s government.

DG ISPR said that the National Security Committee statement did not use the word ‘conspiracy’ but a demarche was issued. “In this case, it was given for undiplomatic language and is equal to interference.”

Shah Mehmood Qureshi, former foreign minister, tweeted that the NSC meeting made clear blatant external interference in Pakistan as reiterated by DG ISPR. “We will never accept an imported regime, taking people back to purana (old) Pakistan riddled with corruption.”

However, Imran Khan’s critics are saying that by refraining from using the word conspiracy, the DG ISPR has exposed the former prime minister and his claims. Across the political divide, both sides are trying to twist DG ISPR’s words in their favour. It underlines the fact that despite Pakistan Armed Forces’ repeated statements that it wants to stay away from the hurly burly of politics, the politicians want to drag it back into the arena.

In any developing country like Pakistan, where the democratic institutions are overwhelmingly weak and flawed, not just the public, but even political players want to see the army’s role in politics as a stabilizer and the final arbitrator in times of crisis. This is perhaps the reason that the army, despite its efforts to focus on its constitutional and “apolitical” role, has to jump into the political fray off and on as a reluctant player.

Among the other important points, which have been widely reported by the print and electronic media, DG ISPR shot down speculations regarding the Chief of the Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa’s second extension in service. He said that the COAS was neither seeking an extension nor will he accept it.  “He will be retiring on time on November 22.”


Maj-Gen Babar Iftikhar also rejected reports of any discord between the military leadership and the former government. Both the COAS and the former premier Imran Khan enjoyed an excellent relationship based on mutual respect, he said.

Maj-Gen Iftikhar also clarified that the military had been on board for Imran Khan’s visit to Moscow and the army would have taken the same stance as that of the former prime minister of saying “absolutely not” had the United States asked for bases in Pakistan. But he clarified that there was no such request made by Washington.

DG ISPR also admitted that the military leadership did try to ease tensions between the government and the opposition over the government’s request by discussing three scenarios, but none of the options were given by the institution. “One scenario was that the no-confidence motion should be held as it was. The other that the prime minister resigns or the no-confidence motion retracted and the assemblies dissolved.”

Maj-Gen Babar Iftikhar also discussed the propaganda campaign run on the social media and the public sphere against the military leadership following the ouster of Imran Khan’s government.

“A malicious propaganda is being run against the army and its leaders using deep fake technology.”

Although the PTI’s rivals blamed its leadership for the anti-army tirade on the social media, the senior leadership of the party, including Imran Khan, said that they hold the army in the highest esteem.


In his interactions with journalists in Islamabad, Imran Khan repeatedly said that one would weaken Pakistan by trying to undermine the armed forces.

Governor Sindh Imran Ismail told Bol News that the PTI social media team has been strictly asked not to indulge in even the faintest anti-army propaganda. “Our politics and national interests do not allow us to go for any such negative campaign. This is not in the DNA of the PTI.”

The law enforcement agencies, which arrested a few PTI social media activists, had to free them in hours after finding that they were not involved in running anti-COAS or anti-Army trends.

However, social media is flooded with former premier Nawaz Sharif and his daughter’s tirades and allegations against Pakistan’s most-trusted and loved institution – the Pakistan Army. There are many video clips in which the father-daughter duo can be seen criticizing the top military leadership by name.

The PTI leaders said that this is one fundamental difference between their party and the PML-N, which often plays in foreign hands, including India, and has run concerted campaigns against the military leadership.

In his briefing, the DG ISPR also rejected rumours circulating on social media about the establishment meeting the opposition parties had alleged that led to the ouster of the Imran Khan government. “There is no truth to this,” he said.


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