February 8, 2023 6:33 am

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Pak Army & ISI Come Together Publicly to Criticise Former Pak PM Imran Khan

This was for the first time that the ISI chief has directly addressed the media, where he said," he cannot remain silent when his institution and officers are being targeted on baseless allegations"

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In an unprecedented event, Pak Army and its intelligence agency -Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), came together to publicly criticise former Pak Prime Minister Imran Khan for the latter’s repeated statement against Pak Army Chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa.  

At a joint press conference held on 27th October 2022 at Rawalpindi in  Pak Army’s headquarters, Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) chief Lt Gen Nadeem Anjum, along with Pak Army’s Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) DG Lt Gen Babar Iftikhar strongly condemned former Pak Prime Minister Imran Khan for his repeated confrontational narrative against the Pak military.  

They, in particular, referred to journalist Arshad Sharif’s killing as the former Prime Minister had held the Pak establishment responsible for Arshad’s death. 

This was for the first time that the ISI chief has directly addressed the media, where he said,” he cannot remain silent when his institution and officers are being targeted on baseless allegations”

DG ISPR, categorically held that the press conference was meant to bring out the true picture of the murder of journalist Arshad Sharif in Kenya earlier this week.

Who was Arshad Sharif

Arshad Sharif was a renowned investigative journalist from Pakistan who was shot dead in Kenya while traveling in his car on 23rd October 2022. The Kenyan police have termed the killing as a case of mistaken identity as the police searched for a similar car involved in a child abduction case.

The controversy around Arshad’s Killing

Sharif was critical of Pakistan’s military and its role in interfering in the domestic politics of Pakistan. Sedition charges were filed against him over an interview with former Pakistan PM Imran Khan where comments “offensive to the army” and “abetting mutiny” were made.

Sharif alleged that the state institutions were harassing him and his life was under threat in Pakistan. Following this, he left the country in August 2022 and moved to Dubai.

Many prominent figures in Pakistan including Imran Khan have made allegations that Sharif was killed on the directives of those holding power in Pakistan as he spoke the truth against Pakistan’s ”imported” government.

Imran Khan has always reiterated that a foreign conspiracy was hatched against him to ouster him from power in Pakistan. He has termed the current Shehbaz Sharif-led government as an “imported government” made to please outsiders.

 ISPR press conference

The press conference by DG ISPR and ISI chief was a sort of clarification, usually done by the civilian leadership in any country. From calling itself an apolitical organization to criticizing a national political party of Pakistan(PTI), the Pak Army has once again shown that it cannot remain apolitical in a country that it had directly ruled for 33 years. 

During the press briefing, Lt. Gen Babar Iftikhar questioned Arshad Sharif’s departure from Pakistan and raised questions like who would benefit from Sharif leaving the country. He further said that Sharif never wanted to leave the country but was forced to do so after being repeatedly reminded that his life was under threat in Pakistan.

Babar further said that the threat alert issued to Sharif by the KPK government was aimed to force him to leave the country. This was a direct allegation against Imran Khan and his party PTI for their involvement in Sharif’s killing since PTI is currently ruling KPK.

ISI chief Lt Gen Anjum was direct in attacking Imran Khan. He alleged that in order to remain in power, Imran Khan in March 2022, gave a “lucrative offer” to Gen Bajwa for an extension in his tenure.

After his ouster as PM of Pakistan, Imran Khan publicly used the term Mir Sajid and Mir Jafar (both figures being traitors in Indian medieval history) against Gen Bajwa.

In a response to these allegations, the ISI chief said, “If you see him as a traitor, then why do you meet him through the back door? Don’t do this where you meet quietly at night through the back door and express your unconstitutional wishes but call the army chief a traitor in broad daylight.”

Conclusion

The military leadership of any country conducts a press conference on security issues, but yesterday’s press conference by DG ISPR and DG ISI was a full political presser.

The press conference was aimed at criticizing a political party(in this case PTI) and clarifying regarding army’s role in politics. These are the jobs done by the civilian leadership of a country and not by the top intelligence and military brass.

Imran Khan gained public support after his ouster as the PM of Pakistan and was challenging the credibility of the Pak army chief. This was also challenging and damaged the credibility of the entire military institution of Pakistan.

Hence, while addressing the press conference both the officers targeted Imran Khan and his government in KPK and hinted at their involvement in the killing of journalist Arshad Sharif. These allegations could seriously damage the public support gained by Imran Khan over the past few months.

Whatever may be the reason for the press conference but for the first time the Pak military has been on the back foot while dealing with an ousted political leader. 

Shubham Joshi
Shubham Joshi
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