ISLAMABAD: The military’s chief spokesperson on Thursday justified the deployment of Rangers personnel outside a court hearing corruption reference against former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, saying that written orders were not issued on all occasions.

In a detailed press conference where he touched upon several issues of national importance, Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) Director General Maj Gen Asif Ghafoor said that Rangers operated under the Ministry of Interior.

He recalled that three wings of the paramilitary force, consisting of around 2,000 personnel had been deployed in Islamabad in 2014 under Article 147 of the Constitution.

The article in question deals with ‘Power of the provinces to entrust functions to the federation’, and says: “Notwithstanding anything contained in the constitution, the government of a province may, with the consent of the federal government, entrust, either conditionally or unconditionally, to the federal government, or to its officers, functions in relation to any matter to which the executive authority of the province extends.”

Says personnel who stopped interior minister should be appreciated for doing their job

Once this was done, Maj Gen Ghafoor said, there continued to be coordination among the district administration, police and Rangers. He stressed that written orders were not received in every case, adding that the term of the Rangers’ deployment was extended by the government after every three months.

He said that on that day, there was a security threat in the city, which was why the paramilitary force had been deployed. He said that representatives of all the three departments – district administration, police and Rangers – were present at the Federal Judicial Complex at 7am and saw the paramilitary personnel deployed there.

When asked to comment on the hard-hitting statements issued by Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal after he was refused entry to the judicial complex, he observed that the personnel performing their duties should be appreciated.

“A soldier who is deployed [somewhere] is doing his duty, and if he is told not to allow irrelevant people... it is possible [to consider] someone who does not have [credentials] as an irrelevant person”.

To explain his point, he claimed that there were events where even the army chief would not be allowed in by the person on duty if he was not carrying his identification card with him.

During the press conference, Maj Gen Ghafoor repeatedly referred to “enemy agencies” and “a hostile narrative”. To a question, he said that minor, localised event should not be viewed from the “enemy’s perspective”.

“I have just talked about the narrative of the enemy, and every institution needs to act in a responsible manner whenever something happens,” he said, insisting that an unnecessary hype had been created.

Recalling remarks about an ongoing investigation into the Muharram riots in Rawalpindi back in 2013, which he made at an earlier press conference, the ISPR chief said that the enemy tried to exploit the sectarian divides in society, adding that all the actors involved in that unfortunate incident were outsiders.

Published in Dawn, October 6th, 2017