KARACHI: The army is a national institution where every Pakistani can serve irrespective of his or her religion.

The assertion came from Maj Gen Asif Ghafoor, the director general of the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR), when he was responding to a question during a television interview on Thursday night.

“We have heard about that retired Capt Mohammad Safdar’s demand,” Maj Gen Ghafoor told Kamran Khan of Dunya TV about the former’s speech in the National Assembly.

“Let me tell you that the Pakistan Army is a national army... It’s not true that army can be joined only by Muslims because we are a Muslim country... We proudly say that the army is an institution, which is the best example of national integration.”

The ISPR director general went on to say that there was no space for bias on the grounds of religion, ethnicity and sects and there were a number of non-Muslims who were currently serving in the armed forces.

“When we put on the uniform we are a Pakistani soldier only, irrespective of our religion, irrespective of our province and irrespective of our clan,” he said.

“Right now, we have Christians, Sikhs and Ahmadis [in the army]. So if someone says ban them... Well, I would say that there is a lawmaking body. And if it brings any such law then this point should be discussed.”

While speaking in the National Assembly, Captain Safdar, a former serviceman, had said that he wanted to bring a resolution in the legislature calling for a “ban on recruitment of Qadianis [Ahmadis] in the armed forces”.

Elaborating on the army’s recruitment process for Muslims, Maj Gen Ghafoor said: “Every Muslim officer recruited in the army files a certificate in which he declares that he’s not an Ahmadi and believes in Khatm-i-Nubuwwat.”

Capt Safdar might have forgotten, but he too gave that undertaking when he joined the army, added the ISPR chief.

Published in Dawn, October 13th, 2017