RAWALPINDI: Chief of the Army Staff Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa presides over the corps commanders’ conference at the General Headquarters on Monday.—APP
RAWALPINDI: Chief of the Army Staff Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa presides over the corps commanders’ conference at the General Headquarters on Monday.—APP

ISLAMABAD: The army said on Monday that it stood ready to assist ‘national institutions’ in accordance with the country’s Constitution.

Chief of the Army Staff Gen Qamar Bajwa, while chairing a corps commanders meeting at the General Headquarters, said: “Pakistan Army as organ of the state will continue to support national institutions as and when asked as per Constitution.”

The meeting, which is a monthly feature at the GHQ, is attended by the army’s top brass, including corps commanders, principal staff officers at the headquarters, and the chiefs of military’s intelligence services.

The Inter-Services Public Relations, which released quotes from the army chief’s remarks at the conference, did not say in which context they were made.

The comments, however, came in the backdrop of Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl’s (JUI-F) ongoing sit-in in Islamabad and demand for resignation of Prime Minister Imran Khan and holding of fresh elections in the country.

Bajwa says Army will help national institutions as allowed in Constitution

The government, under Article 245 of the Constitution, can call the armed forces to its aid in emergency situations.

JUI-F chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman last Friday gave a two-day deadline for the prime minister to resign and had threatened to march to D-Chowk, in front of Parliament House, but was later forced to go soft on that after failing to get backing of key opposition parties — Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz and Pakistan Peoples Party.

The multiparty conference convened on Monday to formulate the future strategy for the agitation also failed to deliver the much needed backing for JUI-F’s plans as one of the party leaders Maulana Abdul Ghafoor Haideri soon after the MPC told reporters that the venue of the sit-in, currently in the federal capital’s H-9 Sector, was not being changed.

Gen Bajwa, in his comments at the conference, said that security and stability in the country had been achieved through a national approach and sacrifices rendered in the fight against terrorism. “We shall not let it reverse to suit any vested agenda at any cost,” the army chief stressed while rejecting moves that could destabilise the country.

The army chief on this occasion further underscored the need for unity among various organs of the state. “While Pakistan Armed Forces with support of national institutions and the nation are fully prepared and committed to thwart all threats including on Eastern Border/LoC, continued cohesion of all national stakeholders on key national issues is essential to defeat inimical forces,” he asserted.

These were the first formal remarks from the army chief since the agitation, named Azadi march by its organisers, kicked off from Karachi on Oct 27.

While participating in a private TV programme few days back, Military spokesman Maj Gen Asif Ghafoor had, however, said: “The opposition should understand that the army is an impartial organisation. We believe on the rule of the law and the Constitution. Our support is not for one party but it lies with a democratically elected government.”

Maj Gen Ghafoor was then responding to the JUI-F chief’s speech at the sit-in on Friday in which he had asked the “institutions” to remain “impartial”. He had, however, not specified which institution/s he was addressing.

Published in Dawn, November 5th, 2019