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Friday, September 29, 2023
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EditorialISPR finally speaks out

ISPR finally speaks out

Amid all the turmoil the country is embroiled in, the army has finally spoken. The new Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) director general, Maj Gen Ahmed Sharif Chaudhry, in his maiden press briefing, discussed in detail various issues that had been making headlines over the last few weeks, or maybe months. The ISPR director general spoke on the issue of talks with the banned Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakis­tan (TTP), elections, social media campaigns and India.

Speaking about army deployment during elections, Maj Gen Chaudhry said a detailed account in this regard had been given in the report submitted with the Supreme Court as well as the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP). In the report, the defence ministry had urged the apex court to recall its April 4 order under which elections were to be held in Punjab on May 14.

The army spokesperson said the government was empowered to deploy the armed forces under Article 245, however the report was “based on ground realities”. He also emphasised that the army was a national army and all politicians and political parties were respectable.

“The army will not want to go to any one ideology or party. Every region is represented in the army,” he elaborated. Talking about talks with the TTP, Maj Gen Chaudhry distanced the military from the initiative, saying that dialogue with the militant group was the decision of the previous government. He said terrorism had increased after the US left Afghanistan, adding that the TTP and other outfits had joined hands to disrupt peace in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan. Divulging details about terrorist activities and counterterrorism operations over the last one year, he said around 293 people had been martyred and over 500 wounded in 436 terrorist incidents. More than 190 people lost their lives in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa alone in 219 incidents whereas 80 died in Balochistan in 206 incidents.

The number of casualties in Punjab and Sindh stood at 14 and seven, respectively. He said the army and law enforcement agencies carried out 8,269 intelligence-based operations in the last one year during which 157 terrorists were killed and 1,378 arrested. The spokesperson disclosed that the ‘mastermind’ behind the Police Lines attack in Peshawar had been apprehended from Bajaur.

About the cost-cutting measures adopted by the army, Maj Gen Chaudhry said due to the current economic situation, the army had decided to reduce expenses incurred on fuel, ration, non-operational procurement, training and non-operational movement. He said the army was relying on technology to reduce expense and was preferring online meetings and simulator training.

About Indian aggression, the ISPR director general said India had carried out 56 small-scale ceasefire violations, out of which 22 were incidents of ceasefire speculative fire, three were air space violations, committed 25 tactical air violations as well as three ceasefire violations. He said Pakistan had shot down six Indian spy quadcopters that were operating along the LoC. He said Pakistan had always cooperated with the United Nations Military Observer Group in India and Pakistan (UNMOGIP), giving it access to the Line of Control (LoC), whereas India never facilitated the observer group.

About the social media campaigns against the army, the ISPR director general said there were “reasonable restrictions” in the Constitution on freedom of expression, and termed the comments on social media against state institutions “irresponsible, illogical and unconstitutional”. He further added that some people with “vested interests” and on the instigation of hostile intelligence agencies were involved in the propaganda campaign. He outrightly said that the army could not be pressurised through such a propaganda, and also cautioned army veterans from indulging in politics.

Through this press conference, the army has made it clear that it was apolitical and where its priorities lay. Lately, there has been an uptick in a campaign against state institutions on social media. This is not right. In fact, this should be discouraged at all levels.  Pakistan is faced with several crises. Economically we are struggling, terrorism has picked up, and politically we are at each other’s throats.

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