The army on Thursday dismissed claims that Peshawar Corps Commander Lt General Faiz Hameed was sidelined, urging politicians to avoid making ‘inappropriate statements’ and dragging the military into politics.
For a second time in less than a week the chief military spokesperson had to issue a statement against the backdrop of certain remarks made by politicians about the military leadership.
Although the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) did not mention anyone by name, it was evident the latest statement was given after controversial remarks made by former president Asif Ali Zardari and PML-N Vice President Maryam Nawaz.
Speaking at a press conference, Zardari, when asked, claimed that the “helpless Faiz had been sidelined.” But he later clarified that he had “unintentionally” uttered those words.
Earlier, Maryam told reporters outside the Islamabad High Court (IHC) that the army chief should be a person who had a “flawless reputation”, free from any criticism or doubts, indirectly suggesting that Gen Faiz could not meet those standards.
Gen Faiz, who served as the director general of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) before being appointed as the Peshawar corps commander, has been in the spotlight ever since the country was gripped by the political crisis.
There were speculations that former prime minister Imran Khan wanted to appoint him as the next army chief as he was also not in favour of posting him out of the ISI in November.
Imran himself acknowledged in one of the recent interviews that he wanted to retain Gen Faiz as DG ISI at least during the winter because of the unfolding Afghan situation and also the alleged conspiracy being hatched against his government.
Against this backdrop, this was the first time the military’s media wing responded to the criticism against Gen Faiz. In what appears to be a message clearly aimed at Zardari, the ISPR explained that Peshawar corps was an “illustrious” formation of the Pakistan Army.
“Peshawar Corps has been playing front-line role in the war on terror for the last two decades,” it said. “One of the most competent and professional officers is entrusted with the responsibility to lead this prestigious formation,” the statement said, clearly rejecting the notion that Gen Faiz had been made redundant.
“Such statements undermine the honour and morale of the institution and its leadership,” the statement further said.
Continuing, the statement added that it was expected that the senior political leadership of the country refrained from passing objectionable remarks against the institution, whose brave officers and men were constantly putting their lives on the line to guard the integrity and sovereignty of Pakistan.
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DG ISPR Major General Babar Iftikhar also told a private news channel that the army was showing restraint despite such statements, hoping that the military would not be dragged into politics.
Gen Babar said that the process of the appointment of the new army chief was clearly given in the Constitution and therefore it must not be debated in public.
He also dismissed the perception that the army had any role to call early elections, saying such decisions had to be taken by the political leadership which, according to him, was fully capable of (taking such decisions).
Gen Babar also rejected any divisions within the army. “If anyone thinks that there is division in the army then he doesn’t know anything about the army,” he said.
Last Sunday, the military had issued a statement taking “strong exception” to what it called “unlawful and unethical practice” of dragging the armed forces into politics, warning that such unsubstantiated statements were “extremely damaging” for Pakistan.
The statement from the military’s media wing came against the backdrop of ongoing political tensions where certain politicians, journalists and analysts directly and indirectly discussed the alleged role of the establishment in politics.
The ISPR did not specifically mention any politicians or party by name but the statement suggested that the military leadership was perturbed over remarks given by both the government and opposition parties.
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