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EditorialQuestions after ISPR presser

Questions after ISPR presser

A day after the military spokesman snubbed former prime minister Imran Khan’s ‘American conspiracy behind a recent no-confidence motion against him, the retaliatory postures by the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf PTI) are likely to drive a wedge between the powerful institution and the former ruling party. Inter-Service Public Relation (ISPR) Director-General Maj Gen Babar Iftikhar on Thursday spoke on a range of issues at a press conference and discussed the ongoing drive by PTI Chairman Imran Khan’s allegation regarding foreign hands in the ouster of his government through a ‘sponsored no-trust motion’. The military spokesman, for the first time, spoke out and out on Khan’s narrative, which is selling like a hot cake among the public, saying that the cable being flashed by the PTI did have something about ‘foreign interference’ in the country’s internal matter, but it did not have anything to substantiate the fact that a ‘conspiracy’ had been hatched against the government of the day. Not only this, the military spokesperson went ahead with refuting Imran Khan’s claim of refusing the US military bases in Pakistan. The last blow coming from the presser was that the establishment was dragged into the political drama by former prime minister Imran himself, who floated three options to defuse the political temperature. This was against Imran Khan’s public stance that it was the establishment that stepped into the political battle with the three options.

The presser created a storm devastating the PTI’s populist wave. Realizing the damage, the PTI has come up with a strong rebuttal of the ISPR’s statements. Former PTI federal minister Shireen Mazari has countered the military spokesman’s statement on the three options that Imran Khan had asked the army to intervene in the political impasse arising in the wake of the no-confidence resolution against him. She categorically said that the prime minister never called the military for help and instead, it was the military that came forward with a request for a meeting through the then defence minister Pervez Khattak. Her tweet, however, did not say a word about the foreign conspiracy and Imran Khan’s refusal of airbase to the US.

The situation may get tenser if the ISPR chooses to respond to Ms Mazari’s statement. Instead of going for the presser and public statement on a pure political matter, the ISPR should have spoken through a press statement by the National Security Committee (NSC) on the ‘cablegate’. The Parliamentary Committee on National Security which has balanced participation of political forces in the parliament is the best forum to address such issues. The irony, however, is that first the former opposition, and now the incumbent opposition is ready to grace the NSC to discuss the ‘Cablegate’. The NSC has stated that the cable had a clear message of ‘blatant interference in the internal affairs of Pakistan’, a fact acknowledged by the ISPR. This is the high time that the military, parliamentarians, and political forces posed trust in the parliamentary forums to settle such issues. Going to the press on sensitive issues may damage democracy.

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