Only way back for PTI is if it offers earnest apology, forgoes politics of anarchy: DG ISPR

Published May 7, 2024
Inter-Services Public Relations Director General Maj-Gen Ahmed Sharif addresses a press conference on Tuesday. — DawnNewsTV
Inter-Services Public Relations Director General Maj-Gen Ahmed Sharif addresses a press conference on Tuesday. — DawnNewsTV

Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR) Director General (DG) Maj-Gen Ahmed Sharif on Tuesday said that any dialogue with the PTI could happen only if it “earnestly apologises publicly in front of the nation”, promises to adopt “constructive politics” and forgoes “politics of anarchy”.

The DG ISPR made the remarks in a lengthy press conference in Rawalpindi just two days before May 9 — a day that holds significant importance in the country’s political landscape as it was on this day last year when military installations came under attack following PTI founder Imran Khan’s arrest, which formed the basis of a severe state crackdown against him and his party.


Key points:

  • Says only way back for PTI if it offers apology
  • Agrees to judicial commission for May 9, says it should probe other matters as well
  • Says no bases in Pakistan have been handed over to anyone
  • Says plot to kill Chinese engineers in Bisham attack hatched in Afghanistan
  • Says army leadership aware of “multiple threats” from India
  • Says evidence present of Indian communication and killings on Pakistani soil
  • Says Pakistan will continue speaking for Palestinians
  • Says Afghan repatriation in country’s larger favour

In the question and answer session, Gen Sharif was asked if there was a possibility of any dialogue with the PTI, to which he replied: “If some political mindset, leader or clique attacks its own army, causes rifts between the army and its people, insults the nation’s martyrs and issues threats and hatches propaganda, then there can be no dialogue with them.

“There is only one way back for such political anarchists that it (PTI) asks for an earnest apology in front of the nation and promises that it will forgo politics of hate and adopt constructive [style of] politics.

“In any case, such dialogue should take place between political parties. It is not appropriate for the army to be involved.”

Gen Sharif was asked about May 9 as well earlier in the session, to which he replied: “Firstly, May 9 is not just the Pakistan Army’s case but the entire country’s.

“If, in any country, an attack is launched on its army, memorials of its martyrs are disrespected, its founder’s house is set on fire, hatred is created between its army and public, and if the people behind it are not brought to justice, then there is a question mark on that country’s justice system.

“We believe that, to maintain trust in Pakistan’s justice system, the perpetrators of May 9 — both the perpetrators and those commanding them — must be sentenced according to the Constitution and the law.

“Nothing is hidden about May 9. The public, the army and we all have irrefutable evidence. All of us saw this incident unfolding, we all saw how everyone was [brainwashed] against the army, its leadership, agencies and institutions through lies and propaganda.”

The army official said that on May 9, “some political leaders” issued orders to their supporters to selectively target military installations.

“When this became public, another lie and [piece of] propaganda was created, [claiming] that this was a ‘false-flag operation’ and ‘we do not know what happened or who did it’.

“For such people, it is said: ’You can fool all the people some of the time, some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time.

“The question is: has this happened for the first time in the world? Incidents of a lesser degree have occurred in the past; so what do other countries do?

“In August 2011, London riots took place, and after that the criminal court system came into action. They even punished children under the age of 18.

“In the Capitol Hill riots […], there was no judicial commission. The people were identified and sentenced strictly. On June 27, 2023, the Paris riots happened and their judicial system immediately came into action.

“I have given the examples that our elite does not get tired of quoting. [The punishments were given] so that such an incident was not repeated, so that such cliques, with incitement and specific political and poisonous aims, do not get the chance to attack the state whenever they want.”

Regarding the PTI’s demand that a judicial commission be created to ascertain the facts of the May 9 riots, the DG ISPR said: “Fine, we are ready, make a judicial commission but if you have to, then go to the root of this entire incident.

“The judicial commission should also determine the goals of the 2014 dharna (sit-in) and [investigate] how the Parliament was attacked. It should also look into the PTV attack [to see] how people were encouraged to stand against the state, indulge in civil disobedience and burn utility bills.”

The commission, the army spokesperson said, should also investigate “how Islamabad was attacked in 2016 with KP’s federal resources, and then again in 2022.”

“It must also see how letters were written to the International Monetary Fund and lobbying was conducted abroad, so that Pakistan would not be given loans and fall into a state of default.”

The DG ISPR said that the judicial body, if formed, should probe the source and target of the funding of such campaigns as well as those who spread hate against state institutions on social media.

“If a specific political clique continues doing these things with impunity, then one day it will go against its own army,” he warned.

“When it continues to lie, and you don’t speak the truth in front of its lies, then there will be deceit and propaganda of every kind.”

He said the “real proud public of Pakistan” distanced itself from May 9 and refused to become a part of it.

On a question regarding allegations by the PTI of airbases handed over to the United States, the DG ISPR rubbished the matter and said: “Neither are any bases in Pakistan handed over nor will be.”

Responding to the press conference, PTI spokesperson Raoof Hasan termed it “full of contradictions”.

Elections and rigging

Questioned on the PTI’s claim on winning the majority in the general elections, DG ISPR said that only 7.5 per cent of people in the country voted for the “specific party”.

“Let’s see the facts — on February 8, the turnout was 47pc, and around 65 million voters cast their vote,” he said, adding that the “specific party” accumulated 18.5m votes which was 31pc of all votes in total.

He said that there were 69pc voters who did not accept the PTI narrative.

“We live in a democracy so the majority did not go to this narrative,” DG ISPR said.

“If we look at the total population, it is 7.5pc, so 92-93pc of the population did not stand with that narrative,” he said, adding that it could not be assumed that the 18.5m people who did vote stood with the PTI’s narrative.

“The narrative has neither the numbers nor the thought behind it,” he added.

“If you look at independent surveys, […] they ask which institution is the most trusted institution in the country. You can pick up any survey; which institute is number one [in the survey]? [It is the] Pakistan army,” he said.

“There was a survey conducted in February where 74pc people said that they trust the army the most,” he added.

‘Plot to kill Chinese engineers in Pakistan hatched in Afghanistan’

The DG ISPR began the press briefing by addressing the tensions with Afghanistan and attacks mounted by terrorists from its soil into Pakistan.

He said the plot that killed five Chinese engineers in an attack on a convoy in Bisham tehsil of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s Shangla on March 26 was hatched in Afghanistan.

“A sad incident took place on March 26 in Bisham, where a suicide bomber targeted a car carrying Chinese engineers working on the Dasu dam, as a result of which, five Chinese citizens and a Pakistani got killed.

“This suicide bombing also connects to across the border [in Afghanistan]; the planning of this terrorism [act] was done in Afghanistan. Terrorists and their facilitators were also being controlled from Afghanistan and the suicide bomber was also an Afghan [national].”

Gen Sharif said the army strongly condemned “this ugly game of terrorism” and was “taking all necessary actions to bring its facilitators to justice”.

TTP attacks from Afghan soil continue despite repeated complaints to Kabul

He said that in the war on terrorism, Pakistan’s soldiers, workers and law enforcement agencies were martyred in huge numbers. “Everyone knows that Pakistan tried its best for peace in the region and especially in Afghanistan. Pakistan’s role has been the most vital in promoting peace in the region.

“Pakistan has been hosting Afghan refugees for a long time and has helped Afghan refugees more than other country, which the world has also recognised.”

Gen Sharif said that despite all the efforts by Pakistan and despite raising the issue to the Afghan interim government on a state level, “TTP (Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan) terrorists are continuously committing acts of terrorism in Pakistan”.

He said that Pakistan presented “concrete evidence but no positive progress” had been seen yet.

The army spokesperson said that links of recent terrorism “extend to terrorist hideouts in Afghanistan”.

He recalled that Pakistan had helped Afghanistan and that one of the pledges made by the interim government in Kabul was to not let Afghan soil be used for any terrorist acts.

“There is concrete evidence that TTP terrorists are still using Afghan soil to launch attacks in Pakistan,” Gen Sharif said. “In this regard, the Foreign Office has registered 12 protests and the army chief has taken a clear stance that Pakistan has its reservations on hideouts of banned outfits [in Afghanistan].

“Pakistan will leave no stone unturned [in its effort] to eradicate terror networks and provide protection to its citizens at all costs.”

He said that the purpose of the armed forces “is to establish peace in the country”. To ensure this, he said, “We will go to every extent to suppress the terrorists and their patrons and enablers.”

The DG ISPR said that terrorists and their enablers “have been busy in attempting to worsen” the law and order situation in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan.

“In January 2024, BLA (Balochistan Liberation Army) terrorists attacked the Mach Frontier Corps camp, which was bravely thwarted by security forces. In this attack, four personnel, including two policemen, embraced martyrdom, while 24 terrorists were sent to hell,” he recalled.

On March 16, a North Waziristan checkpost was attacked, and as a result, seven soldiers, including Lt Colonel Kashif and Captain Ahmed, embraced martyrdom while six terrorists were “sent to hell”.

In response, he said, Pakistan carried out counter-attacks in Afghanistan’s border areas and targeted safe havens of terrorists, in which eight terrorists were killed, who were involved in numerous terror acts in Pakistan.

He said that on March 25, another soldier embraced martyrdom in a terror attack in Turbat while four terrorists were eliminated.

He said that a terrorist named Habibullah s/o Khan Mohammad, who was captured in an intelligence-based operation in Balochistan’s Pishin district on April 23, admitted to committing terror acts in Pakistan.

The DG ISPR said that so far in 2024 the security forces collectively conducted 13,135 small and major intelligence-based operations against terrorists and their facilitators, during which “249 terrorists were sent to hell while 396 were arrested”.

“The Pakistan Army, police, intelligence agencies and other law enforcement agencies are carrying out more than 100 operations on a daily basis against terrorism.”

He said that during the operations in the ongoing year by Pakistani forces, two of its officers and 60 soldiers embraced martyrdom.

Threats from India

Regarding India, he said that the country’s top civil and army leadership was aware of “multiple threats” from India on the eastern border and that planning was underway to “divert attention from its internal violence like always”.

“In the current year, there have been multiple violations of the ceasefire by India on a small scale, which include 120 incidents of speculative fire, 15 airspace violations and 59 technical air violations,” he said.

“The Indian army is targeting innocent citizens in Azad Jammu and Kashmir along the Line of Control (LoC) but the Pakistan Army has given a befitting response and will continue to do so. We are ready to defend our sovereignty at all times and at all costs.”

He said the world was witnessing the Indian army’s targeting of innocent civilians in occupied Kashmir, adding that it had tried to silence Kashmiris’ democratic voice through oppression.

DG Sharif said that when the Indian supreme court read out the “pre-written” verdict last year upholding Article 370, it proved that India was “openly violating” the UN resolutions.

The DG ISPR said that the Indian government was involved in further international crimes which included the targeted killing of Indian-origin Sikhs.

“Indian agencies have also killed Pakistani citizens Shahid Latif and Muhammad Riaz on the directives of the Indian government,” he said, adding that there was credible evidence present of communication between Indian agents and the killings on Pakistani soil.

He stated that the Foreign Office had also held a press briefing in this regard.

Palestinian issue

DG Sharif noted that Pakistan had become a prominent advocate for Gazans among Muslim nations on the global stage. He added that during a meeting with the Palestinian ambassador, the army chief had called for an immediate ceasefire and vowed to continue advocating for the issue.

He said that the army chief had vowed full diplomatic, moral and political support from the Pakistani people [for the Palestinians].

“We will continue speaking up for viable solutions to the Palestinian issue and their land,” he said.

Ban on X and freedom of expression

The DG ISPR also said that some political segments in the media consistently levelled allegations against the army and institutions, adding that when those segments yet failed to provide evidence when challenged, often responding with further allegations.

“If institutions also started making allegations in response, society would fall into a vicious cycle,” he said, adding that he believed in “rationality, facts and the rights of the people”.

“We believe that the truth will always prevail over lies,” he said.

In response to a question regarding Article 19 of the Constitution (which talks about freedom of speech, expression and the press), the DG ISPR acknowledged that the article guaranteed freedom of expression, but emphasised that it also protected against attacks on Pakistan’s sovereignty, security and defence under the guise of freedom of expression.

“The Constitution and the law of Pakistan are clear in prohibiting propaganda against the state,” he said.

While answering a question of whether the ban on social media platform X could be removed, the DG ISPR said: “I think this is not the appropriate forum where this decision would be taken.”

Repatriation of illegal Afghan nationals in larger interest of Pakistan

The DG ISPR spoke about the drive to repatriate illegal Afghans back to their own country.

“The decision to send back foreign citizens residing in Pakistan illegally was made by the government of Pakistan in the larger benefit of the country,” he said.

“There was [added] burden on the country’s economy, while the law and order situation in the country was also deteriorating. In no country in the world, illegal immigrants are allowed to roam freely.

“So far, 563,639 illegal Afghan citizens have been returned to their countries, yet hundreds of thousands are still living in Pakistan.”

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