Islamabad: Inter-Services Public Relations director general Maj Gen Asif Ghafoor on Monday rebutted the impression that the Armed Forces were playing any covert role in the country’s politics.
He was speaking after a journalist brought up the frequent use of an Urdu phrase khalai makhlooq, meaning alien powers, in PML-N quaid Nawaz Sharif’s public rallies to refer to the powerful security establishment’s alleged role in politics. While the ISPR DG reserved comment on the use of the phrase, he broached the issue of upcoming general elections and said that the security forces should not be dragged into the matter. He said the army was satisfied that all allegation leveled against it in this regard had been proven wrong with time.
He said it was the responsibility of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) and if it was in a position to hold the election tomorrow, it could do so. He added that if the army was requisitioned for any election-related task, that would be an entirely different matter. He said it tried to fulfill whatever tasks it was assigned to the best of its capabilities.
To a journalist’s comment that the army seemed to be ‘exercising restraint’ under Chief of the Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa, Maj Gen Ghafoor said the institution would continue to do so as long as it felt that the criticism was not harming the country.
A major portion of the talk was devoted to the prevailing environment in the formerly Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) and the ongoing Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement (PTM).
Hailing the merger of these regions into the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa as a historic achievement, he said the credit for the task went to both the civilian and military leadership. Regarding opposition to the merger, Ghafoor said there wasn’t a 100 percent consensus on the matter but those opposing it needed to understand that FATA was now a part of KP, and everyone needed to work together for development in the region.
Denying the impression that the security forces were using force against the PTM, he recalled that he had met the movement leaders during the Islamabad sit-in and acknowledged that their demands were practical and assured them of action on them. He said that after the meeting he received a text message by Mohsin Dawar, a central leader of the movement, thanking him for the facilitation. Despite receiving assurances, he said, the PTM started another round of protests a few days later. The ISPR DG then objected to an apparent change of last name by the PTM leader Manzoor Pashteen as well as quick emergence of about 5,000 Afghanistan-based social media accounts associating themselves with the movement. He even questioned the popularity of the cap worn by Pashteen and articles published on the movement in the foreign press, asking rhetorically, “How did a cap made abroad started being imported into Pakistan? How did articles start appearing in newspapers and how did some foreign media start telecasting the protests live on Facebook and Twitter?”
He said that since the country’s enemies were praising the PTM, the latter needed to do some introspection to see if its activities were in favour of the country or not.