EDITORIAL: Given the gravity of challenges besetting Pakistan, the much-needed and keenly awaited was that of the new army leadership, and it was available but only in bits and pieces. There were questions and people wanted answers to them.
People wanted to know how the army leadership looks at them, and whether or not it will do something concrete to help restore political normality in the country.
Another question that does not have an easy answer is: what kind of understanding was reached with the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan, who authorised it and what is its future? There is yet another key question: is it that the anti-armed forces social media is the brainchild of local political parties or is it an imported commodity? The people also wanted to know the army leadership’s stance on elections to the dissolved Punjab Provincial Assembly.
And it was also the need of the time that the new army leadership should spell out its worldview, particularly its position on relationship with neighbouring countries, and more so in context of the Pakistan-China joint venture of China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).
There were a number of public questions that came up for answers at the maiden media encounter of the new Inter-Services Public Relations Director General Maj-Gen Ahmed Sharif Chaudhry on Tuesday. Even when he was a bit cautious in giving out his version, he took all these questions in good spirit and dealt with them in quite some detail.
The picture that emerges from his responses to the questions by the media men is that the Pakistan Army is apolitical, but at the same time being a part of the government it doesn’t nurture a mindset that, as expected by the social media, should act in contradiction of the government policies and plans.
The Constitution imposes some “reasonable restrictions”, and he called such comments against the state institutions as “irresponsible, illogical and unconstitutional”. Maj-Gen Chaudhry didn’t rule out the possibility that some “vested interests” do so at the behest of enemy intelligence agencies. That a few veterans too indulge in this political game is a fact.
He, therefore, cautioned them not to act as tools of anti-Pakistan outfits. The ISPR chief was brief but quite categorical in saying that the “ground realities” dictated that the polls to the assemblies should be ‘in one go’, and as to what these ground realities are he said the relevant court has been duly informed.
He also disowned resumption of contacts with the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), saying the Imran Khan’s government initiated the dialogue with the terrorist outfit and “openly admitted this as well”.
But that is in the past; the army is now after the TTP and has dismantled its ownership of certain parts of the country by conducting hundreds of intelligence-based kinetic operations against them.
While he pointed out that the TTP is based in Afghanistan, the ISPR chief also narrated in some detail how India is trying to shift its internal failings onto Pakistan, mainly by committing violations of the LOC ceasefire agreement.
Looking to the future, the army spokesperson was optimistic about normality returning to the national political landscape.
The challenges Pakistan is likely to confront in future are its burgeoning population, food security and climate change. And in meeting these challenges the army, according to the ISPR chief, the army is ready to contribute its inputs.
He said developed countries also use their armies to improve agriculture, and our federal and provincial governments must decide what Pakistan Army’s role will be.
Copyright Business Recorder, 2023