ISLAMABAD: The chief military spokesperson should not be commenting on national economy, Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal said on Friday – a day after Major General Asif Ghafoor said, “If Pakistan’s economy is not bad, it’s not good either”.
“DG ISPR [the director general, Inter-Services Public Relations] should refrain from commenting on national economy,” said the minister while speaking to journalists informally in Washington on Friday. “Irresponsible statements could hurt Pakistan’s global image,” he added.
Maj Gen Ghafoor made the comment in an interview with a private TV channel on Thursday – a day after army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa voiced concerns at the country’s ‘sky high’ debt and called for broadening tax base and bringing in financial discipline to break the ‘begging bowl’.
Addressing a seminar on ‘Interplay of Economy and Security’ in Karachi on Wednesday, Gen Qamar said Pakistan’s economy was showing mixed indicators as “the growth has picked up, but the debts are also sky high”.
Conversely, Iqbal, who is currently touring the United States, said Pakistan’s economy was much more stable as compared to the situation in 2013.
“We have seen a rise in imports as the industrial sector is investing in the power sector. There is nothing to be alarmed about,” he added.
“Revenue generation has witnessed a twofold increase because of the improvement in the tax collection system.”
He said Pakistan’s current development budget was its biggest in the country’s history.
“We don’t need to seek a bailout package from the International Monetary Fund (IMF),” he added. “The government has allocated more funds and resources for security purposes.”
Analysts say the apparent spat show growing unease in civil-military relationship. Earlier this month, the interior minister also had a tiff with Rangers when he was denied entry into Islamabad’s accountability courts by paramilitary troops.
Incensed by the incident, Ahsan said he would not allow a “state within the state” and ordered an inquiry into deployment of the Rangers outside the courts as the administration had denied it had called in the paramilitary troops.
He had threatened to resign if he could not find out who had deployed the Rangers when deposed premier Nawaz Sharif was appearing before the accountability court in connection with a corruption reference against him.
Later the DG ISPR said the Rangers were deployed at the courts due to security threats. “It is not compulsory for every order to be written,” he said while referring to the deployment order.
However, he defended the Rangers saying the paramilitary troops performing their duty at the court should be appreciated.
“A soldier deployed [somewhere] performs his duty, and if he is told not to allow irrelevant people… it is possible [to consider] someone who does not have [credentials] as an irrelevant person,” he had said.
Interior minister’s ‘unwarranted attack on ISPR’
Meanwhile, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan termed Iqbal’s statement an “unwarranted attack on ISPR”, saying the statement was part of the ‘Dawn leaks’ agenda.