Armed forces should not appear to be inclined towards any one political party, advises Maryam Nawaz

Published November 1, 2020
Party vice-president Maryam Nawaz addresses PML-N's Sher Jawan Movement opening ceremony. — DawnNewsTV
Party vice-president Maryam Nawaz addresses PML-N's Sher Jawan Movement opening ceremony. — DawnNewsTV

PML-N vice president Maryam Nawaz on Sunday advised the director-general of the army's media wing to "be very careful", saying that it "does not suit the armed forces and other institutions to appear [as if] they are standing behind a political party".

"The DG ISPR is a professional soldier and the spokesperson for the institution, he should be very careful," she said while addressing the PML-N's Sher Jawan Movement opening ceremony. "Imran Khan and the government benefit if they drag institutions in politics; it suits them. But it does not suit the armed forces and other institutions to appear [as if] they are standing behind a political party.

"This discrimination should not be there, they (institutions) are as much ours as theirs (government). Such precedents should not be set as it increases the divide between institutions and public."

Maryam was referring to a recent press conference by Maj Gen Babar Iftikhar, the Inter-Services Public Relations' director general, where he had said that any attempt to link the release of Indian pilot Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman with anything other than Pakistan's mature response as a responsible state was "disappointing" and "misleading".

Maj Gen Iftikhar's press conference had come a day after PML-N leader Ayaz Sadiq, on the floor of the National Assembly, suggested that the PTI government had released Abhinandan in capitulation, fearing an imminent attack from India. However, the DG ISPR had not named anyone.

Sadiq had last week claimed that Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi had during the post-Pulwama military stand-off with India urged the opposition parties at a meeting of the parliamentary groups to let the captured Indian pilot go because India was set to attack Pakistan that night.

"I remember [Foreign Minister] Shah Mahmood Qureshi sahib was present in that meeting, which the prime minister had refused to attend. The chief of army staff also attended," Sadiq had said while responding to federal minister Murad Saeed.

"With legs shaking and sweat on the forehead, Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said to us, 'For God's sake, let him (Abhinandan) go back now'," he had claimed, adding "no attack was imminent; they only wanted to capitulate and send Abhinandan back".

Sadiq had subsequently released a video clarification saying that news reports by Indian media on his remarks were "totally contrary" to what he actually said in the parliament. However, government members rubbished his explanations, with Information Minister Shibli Faraz saying that the former National Assembly speaker's "words were beyond forgiveness".

In response to Sadiq's remarks in the National Assembly on Thursday, Minister for Science and technology Fawad Chaudhry said: "Humne Hindustan ko ghuss kay mara hai (We struck India in their home)."

The minister, who was referring to the Pakistan Air Force's response to India's violation of its airspace on February 26 last year, went on to say: "Our success in Pulwama is the success of this nation under [Prime Minister] Imran Khan's leadership." His remarks came on the same day as Maj Gen Iftikhar's press conference.

As other lawmakers sought for the minister to explain his words, Fawad said: "The way we hit India inside their territory after the Pulwama incident [...] India's own media and political leadership is embarrassed by that."

His remarks were reported by the Indian media as a "sensational admission" of Pakistan's alleged involvement in the attack in Indian-occupied Kashmir's Pulwama area in February last year, in which 44 Indian soldiers were killed. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi too alluded to his statement as being a "confession" by Pakistan of its involvement in the Pulwama attack.

Fawad insisted that only a part of his speech was being used to misinterpret his remarks.

Addressing PML-N workers today, Maryam said that a government minister had made comments due to which "even the Indian prime minister is charge-sheeting us". She went on to say that while the army spokesperson had responded to Sadiq's remarks, he had made no reference to Fawad's comments.

The former prime minister's daughter urged her supporters to stand with her father Nawaz Sharif in their "struggle to get respect for the [public's] vote".

Maryam told PML-N workers "not to malign the uniform" and instead "expose the characters who defame" the armed forces.

She once again criticised retired Lt Gen Asim Saleem Bajwa, saying that the "nation wants to know how you, a salaried man, started businesses across the world".

'Is police uniform inferior?'

Maryam also spoke about the alleged abduction and detention of Sindh inspector general of police, saying he was "kept in isolation for refusing to arrest retired Captain Mohammad Safdar".

Last month, PML-N leader and Maryam's husband retired Captain Safdar was arrested from his hotel room in Karachi for "violating the sanctity of Quaid's mausoleum". He was released on bail the same day.

Following his arrest — which came a day after opposition alliance Pakistan Democratic Movement's rally in Karachi — a purported voice message by PML-N leader and former Sindh governor Muhammad Zubair was shared by a journalist in which Zubair alleged that the inspector general of police was kidnapped and forced to register the first information report against Maryam, Safdar and 200 others for violating the sanctity of the Quaid's mausoleum.

In the audio clip circulating on Twitter, Zubair purportedly said that Chief Minister Murad Shah confirmed to him that police was pressured into making the arrest. "When they (police) refused to do that, Rangers kidnapped [the IGP]," Zubair said.

One day after Safdar's arrest and subsequent release, police personnel across the province had applied for leave en masse in order to "come out of […] shock" caused by the "episode of registration of FIR against Capt (R) Safdar".

PML-N supremo Nawaz Sharif had said the events that unfolded in Karachi were "clear proof of our narrative that there is 'a state above the state'".

Without naming anyone, he said: "You made a mockery of the elected provincial government's powers" and "brought a bad name to the Pakistan Army".

In a previous press conference, Maryam had also alleged that the Sindh inspector general of police was forcibly "taken to the sector commander's office and asked to sign on the arrest orders".

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