COAS will not seek extension

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DG ISPR says General Bajwa will retire in November; rules our possibility of Martial Law; lambast smear campaign against top military leadership

Special Correspondent

RAWALPINDI: Major General Babar Iftikhar Director General ISPR has categorically stated that Army Chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa is neither seeking extension in service nor he has asked for it. He will retire in November when his retirement is due. He further said the recent smear campaign against the top military leadership was quite unfortunate adding those elements who want to spoil image of armed forces of Pakistan shall fail.

The DG ISPR made these remarks while addressing a press conference on Thursday.

He further said that word conspiracy was never used in the minutes of the National Security Committee meeting adding the incumbent Prime Minister has hinted at convening of an in camera session in order to discuss further details of the letter.

He strongly dispelled the impression as if there were any differences among ranks of the military adding the Pakistan Army strictly believes in chain of command and would preserve and protect it at any cost.

He said any effort to create a rift between people and the armed forces is against national interest. The military’s spokesperson welcomed constructive criticism but pointed out that a “malicious campaign” is being run against the army and its leadership.

Major Gen Iftikhar said that the formation commanders expressed confidence in the steps taken for the country’s security, especially on account of international security and the Pakistan Army’s role in upholding the rule of law.

“All of them agreed that democracy, the strength of institutions and rule of law and all the institutions working within the constitutional limits is the guarantor of national interest,” he said.

Major Gen Iftikhar went on to say that the nation’s support is the core of the army’s strength and without it, the concept of national security is meaningless.

He said that that is why any intentional or unintentional effort that becomes the reason for creating a rift between the nation and armed forces is against the broader national interest.

Responding to another question, he reiterated that the army has nothing to do with politics. “There is no interference by the army in any by-election or local bodies election.”He said that it was said that “calls were received”, therefore evidence should be brought to the fore if there is any.

“An organised malicious propaganda is being run against the Pakistan Army and its leadership. Even fake audio messages of different retired senior military officials are being created using a deep-fake technology to create a divide between the nation and armed forces.”This is illegal, unethical and totally against national interest,” he said.

He then requested the public and political parties to not drag the army into politics.

“We want to stay out of it. Keep us out of this discourse,” he said, adding that this campaign didn’t get successful ever in the past nor will it in future.

Word ‘conspiracy’ not included in NSC statement: DG ISPR

The DG ISPR clarified that the word “conspiracy” was not used in the statement issued after a meeting of the National Security Committee last month.

His clarification came in response to a journalist’s question. He asked about the military leadership’s stance on former prime minister Imran Khan’s claims that it acknowledged the “foreign conspiracy” in the NSC meeting, Maj Gen Iftikhar said that he cannot discuss what was said in the meeting.

He, however, said that the stance of the military leadership was conveyed in the meeting as well as the statement issued after it.

He said that Pakistan’s military agencies are working day and night against such plots and will not let them get successful.

Responding to a question about the BBC report on events that took place at the Prime Minister’s House on the night of Imran Khan’s ouster from power, Maj Gen Iftikhar said that it is a “false story” and nothing but a pack of lies”.

“The army has nothing to do with the political process that took place a few days back in the country,” he iterated. “Do not drag the army into political matters.”

On the ongoing propaganda against the security forces, the DG ISPR said that the concerned departments of the government were taking action against it and maintained that they have also traced foreign linkages during the probe into the malicious campaign.

“We have collected data around the malicious campaign against institutions. The campaigns started locally and have expanded globally. We will share our analysis in the coming days.”

He also urged the people to avoid sharing such reports without confirming them.

In response to a question, the DG ISPR said the “cyphers” are top-secret documents that are sent to the Foreign Office by Pakistani ambassadors from across the world.

“…we also receive some of these [cyphers] at the directorate of the Inter-Services Intelligence that is considered to be related to national security,” the military’s spokesperson said.

ISI had started its work when the cypher was received on March 7 or 8, and based on that, it gave its input to the NSC, the DG ISI said, but noted that cyphers come under the domain of the Foreign Office and only those related to the national security were shared with the military.

Maj Gen Iftikhar asked the political leadership to not malign the army chief and termed it unfortunate as the leader of an institution — that keeps working for Pakistan’s security — is defamed.

Moving on, the DG ISPR said the military had a lot on its plate already and was busy tackling the preexisting issues. “We cannot get involved in something else and dragging us into something else and blaming us for it is not justified.”

Maj Gen Iftikhar said the military would “absolutely not” impose martial law, noting that democracy was the only way forward for Pakistan — and the COAS has time and again maintained this.