• ISPR says ‘hurtful comments’ from some quarters unacceptable
• ‘Deep anguish’ among martyrs’ families, army’s rank and file
• Alvi calls controversy on why he didn’t attend funeral unnecessary

ISLAMABAD: The country’s armed forces and the families of martyred security personnel have expressed “deep anguish” over what the military spokesperson called a “regretful social media campaign” after the recent helicopter crash in which six army officials, including a lieutenant general, embraced martyrdom.

Also, President Arif Alvi in a series of tweets on late Friday night wrote: “There is unnecessary controversy on why I did not attend Janaza of the Shaheeds recently. This gives me an opportunity to condemn in unequivocal terms the despicable tweets by those who are neither aware of our culture or our religion.”

He said he called “hundreds of families”, attended funerals and visited them to offer condolences.

According to the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR), “certain insensitive quarters” resorted to hurtful and derogatory comments on social media, which was “unacceptable”.

“The regretful social media campaign after the unfortunate helicopter crash on Aug 1 has caused deep anguish and distress among shuhada (martyrs’) families and rank and file of the armed forces,” the ISPR stated in a press release issued on Friday.

“While the whole nation stood with the institution in this difficult time, certain insensitive quarters resorted to hurtful and derogatory comments on social media, which was unacceptable and highly condemnable,” it added.

ISPR Director General Maj Gen Babar Iftikhar later told Geo News that the way “this happens on social media, we have to look into this and reject such elements involved in it”. He said: “We can do this collectively. That was why we issued a press release, as it was important to highlight this matter. This has to be condemned at every level.”

The wreckage of the army helicopter, which went missing during relief operations in flood-hit areas of Balochistan on the night of Aug 1, was found near in Lasbela district the following day. Corps Commander Lt Gen Sarfaraz Ali, Brig Amjad Hanif, Brig Mohammad Khalid, Major Saeed Ahmed, Major M. Talha Manan and Naik Mudassar Fayyaz were on board the Mi-17 helicopter of Army Aviation.

Over the past few months, Chief of the Army Staff (COAS) Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa has also been targeted on social media.

It was claimed on social media that Lt Gen Ali’s family had Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) chairman Imran Khan from attending his funeral. Strongly condemning the social media campaign to spread misinformation about the helicopter crash, PTI leader Fawad Chaudhry told a presser that Mr Khan had visited Lt Gen Ali’s residence to condole his death.

Whoever was involved in the campaign over this tragedy must be condemned, a PTI spokesperson said.

‘Pakistani soil not used for Zawahiri killing’

Mr Chaudhry also demanded to know whether Pakistan’s air space had been used by the US for a recent drone strike that killed Al Qaeda chief Ayman al Zawahiri. “The nation wants to know whether we are again going to become a tool of the United States against Al Qaeda,” he questioned.

However, the military spokesperson ruled out the possibility, saying there was no question of Pakistan soil being used for “such a purpose”.

“The Foreign Office has clarified it in detail. They are all rumours, as anybody can write anything on social media. We should avoid this. Our enemy, in particular, feeds such information and they (people) get exploited,” the DG ISPR told the TV channel.

‘Dissolve assemblies in a month’

At the presser, Mr Chaudhry warned the government that his party was launching a campaign against the government within 48 hours to pressure the ruling coalition to hold the next general election without any delay. “Our next line of action will start in 48 hours,” he added.

“We are staging a big public gathering in Islamabad after two days where the party will give a deadline to the government for the announcement of general election,” he said, adding that it would be disastrous for the country and its economy if the “imported government” was given more time. He also asked the government to dissolve the assemblies within a month.

Mr Chaudhry criticised the Election Commission of Pakistan for “fulfilling the wishes” of the ruling PML-N and its ally PPP.

Responding to a question, he said there was no question of the acceptance of resignations of 11 PTI lawmakers by National Assembly Speaker Raja Pervaiz Ashraf when former deputy speaker Qasim Suri had “already accepted their resignations in April”.

Published in Dawn, August 6th, 2022

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