Director General (DG) of Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) Maj Gen Asif Ghafoor on Friday distanced the army from the controversy surrounding Aasia Bibi's acquittal, saying that the decision had been taken by the courts and the army had nothing to do with it.
Speaking to PTV News, the DG ISPR advised religio-political parties protesting against the Supreme Court judgement on Aasia Bibi's appeal to seek a legal solution to their grievances.
He referred to a review petition against the Supreme Court's decision, filed by Qari Muhammad Salam, and said that they should wait for the court to decide the matter.
"Unfortunately, the army is dragged into every matter," he said when asked about anti-military statements issued by protesters. "This is a legal matter and it is sad that negative statements are being issued against the army."
"We are tolerating a lot," he added, pointing out that there are certain limitations imposed by the Constitution on what can be said about state institutions, and that action could be taken in case of violation of these.
He also urged the protesters not to divert the army's attention to "other matters", saying the forces are engaged in a fight to defeat terrorism.
"The armed forces, along with the rest of the country, have fought a war that we are about to win," said Maj Gen Ghafoor. "Our goal is long-lasting peace. We have established peace and we are headed towards stability but there is still a lot left to do," he said.
"The armed forces hope that this matter is resolved without disruption of peace," he said, urging the people to unite so that the country can move forward.
The DG ISPR added that "even though the army had nothing to do with [Aasia Bibi's] case", the forces still wish for the matter to be resolved peacefully. At the same time, he warned that action would be taken as per the Constitution if matters escalate.
In answer to a question about Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) chief Khadim Hussain Rizvi's statement, where he had alleged that the armed forces had threatened to "destroy" his party, Maj Gen Ghafoor explained that members of the Inter-Services Intelligence were part of the delegation that was sent to negotiate with the protesters.
"The officer was part of the government delegation, as the ISI is an intelligence department that reports to the prime minister.
"During negotiations, discussions can get heated," he said. "These decisions are very difficult, you have to tackle law and order situations like the current one."
He said that it was up to the government to decide what steps it wanted to take to tackle the situation and said that the army would only take action against protesters if the government asked for its assistance.