Defence Minister Khawaja Asif said on Wednesday that the appointment of the army chief should not be turned into a political debate.
“I can assure you that, at the moment, there is no ongoing process regarding the appointment of the army chief,” Asif said in response to a question during a press conference. The army chief’s appointment is due in November this year, with Director-General of the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) Major General Babar Iftikhar already clarifying that COAS Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa will retire on November 29, 2022.
The minister had spoken about the army chief’s appointment while addressing a press conference on the government’s action against the social media propaganda launched following the Balochistan helicopter crash in Lasbela. The defence minister had said that 18 Indian Twitter accounts were involved in the anti-army smear campaign following the copter crash. “Their channels say, ‘the work Imran Khan is doing for us, even if we had spent billions of dollars we would not have been able to create the kind of network to safeguard and advance India’s interests in Pakistan as how the PTI and its leader is doing,'” the defence minister said. He claimed that the social media campaign is a ‘joint project’ of PTI and India.
“The law has come into action,” he said and claimed that in the coming days, “more facts” will be unveiled. Referring to reports run in the media a day ago, Asif said an investigation into the campaign had found that 529 Pakistani accounts, 18 Indian accounts and 33 accounts from other countries were involved. “This investigation is reaching its conclusion,” he said, adding that action would be taken on the results in accordance with the law and the Constitution.
A malicious social media propaganda was started following the martyrdom of army officers in the Balochistan helicopter crash – which took place on August 1. The defence minister added that the Lasbela helicopter crash was an unfortunate event, and it caused grief to the nation. “But the entire nation is ashamed […] after the tweets that came to the fore.” Asif’s statement came after sources told a TV channel that the government has decided to arrest all the people behind the negative propaganda against the Lasbela helicopter crash on social media.
They added that a campaign was launched against the Pakistan Army by the workers of a political party, and Indian social media accounts actively participated in it. The defence minister added that earlier PTI Chairman Imran Khan was not speaking about his party leader Shahbaz Gill’s statement – that allegedly incited hate against the army. “He (Khan) witnessed that [Gill’s statements] did not give his party any political advantage nor did it benefit him in any other way,” Asif said, implying that after these events, the PTI chairman distanced himself from Gill’s comments.
Gill was earlier on Wednesday remanded to police custody for 48 hours by a local court in Islamabad. “They are going to such lengths because of the loss of their power […] PTI leaders have crossed all boundaries in their statements,” the defence minister said. Taking a jibe at the PTI leaders for claiming that Gill’s mental state is disturbed, Asif said that since power was taken away from the PTI, “they have lost their senses”. “Our government does not believe in revenge.” Asif said Imran distanced himself from Gill’s comments when he saw that the move had ended up hurting the PTI instead of accruing any dividend or political benefit.