An Avoidable Controversy

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An Avoidable Controversy
An Avoidable Controversy

An Avoidable Controversy

Caution and restraint are not among the strengths of Shahbaz Gill, who serves as the chief of staff of former PM

Shahbaz Gill, one of the tough-talking Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) leaders, could have avoided landing himself and his party into trouble had he chosen his words prudently during an appearance on ARY News. But caution and restraint are not among the strengths of Gill, who serves as the chief of staff of former premier Imran Khan.

Similarly, the Shehbaz Sharif government could have ignored or reacted mildly on the episode in which Gill asked personnel of the armed forces to act according to their conscience while following orders of their superiors. But a weak and under pressure government decided to go full throttle against Gill and the PTI as well as the ARY News, taking it as an opportunity to fix them.

The result; more acrimony and bitterness added to an already highly charged and polarized political environment. With the media persons close to the government claiming that informed sources want Gill to be court martialed and the government registering an FIR that includes serious charges of sedition and waging war against the state against him, this case is all set to become explosive if not handled with extreme care and moderation.

According to Kohsar Police Station, Islamabad the arrested PTI leader faces charges under sections 34 (common intention), 109 (abetment), 120 (concealing design to commit offence punishable with imprisonment), 121 (waging war against the state), 124-A (sedition), 131 (abetting mutiny, or attempt to seduce a soldier, sailor or airman from his duty), 153 (provoking to cause riot), 153-A (promoting enmity between different groups),  505 (statement conducing to public mischief),  and 506 (punishment for criminal intimidation) of the Pakistan Penal Code.


Unfortunately, Gill is not the first politician who tried to drag the Pakistan Armed Forces into controversy. There is a long list of politicians, who have targeted, especially the Pakistan Army and its current leadership, accusing them of “meddling in politics” and orchestrating the fall of their government. This includes the convicted former premier Nawaz Sharif, his daughter Maryam and several close associates, some of whom are not in the federal cabinet. The allegations made by the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and some other political forces were far graver than the provocative remarks of Gill. This, however, does not mean that the example of the past becomes a license to run defamation campaigns against the institutions now or in the future.

Similarly, some of the media houses, especially the Jang and Geo group, resorted to an organised and malicious propaganda campaign against the Pakistan Army and its leadership.

In all these past cases, those responsible for the propaganda campaign were either allowed to go scot free or just with a little snap on their wrist. Now almost all of these controversial politicians are back in the corridors of power and the media houses, accused of running the defamation campaign, enjoying cordial relations with the Pakistan Armed Forces.

The point is that an even-handed and fair approach is needed in dealing with such cases. The Pakistan Army top brass must ensure that its good name is not being exploited by any political player to settle scores with the rival. And this includes the Shehbaz government which includes many faces who were part of the propaganda campaign.

At the same time, the leadership of the mainstream political parties as well as media houses must ensure that all the sensitive institutions are being discussed in a responsible manner. In fact, they should refrain from scandalizing and dragging the Armed Forces in political discussions altogether.

While the political governments, especially a controversial and weak government like that of Shehbaz Sharif, have their narrow vested interest to serve, the military leadership should be clear that a popular federal party like the PTI, which in its essence is pro-armed forces, should not be pushed against the wall in its name.


Pakistan needs lowering of political temperatures and reconciliation among main stakeholders. The sedition case against one or more PTI leaders would only add fuel to fire and unnecessarily drag the armed forces into an unwanted controversy.

With additional reporting by Abrar Saeed


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