Thursday April 14, 2022

Smear Campaign Launched Against Army To achieve Through Rumours, Baseless Character Assassination: DG ISPR

Rawalpindi :Director General (DG) Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) Major General Babar Iftikhar Thursday said that a statement released by the National Security Committee (NSC) at the end of its meeting last month contained no mention of a foreign-funded conspiracy

General Babar held a press conference in the wake of key political developments that saw PTI leader Imran Khan being voted out by the Parliament and social media activists launching a smear campaign against the military while the press conference was a policy statement of the army in response to the claims made by the PTI in the past few weeks.

The DG ISPR said that the United States had never demanded military bases from Pakistan but if it had done so they military would have also said “absolutely not.”

He also said that COAS General Bajwa had neither sought an extension for himself nor he would accept an extension in any circumstance, and he will retire on November 29.

The spokesperson said that there was no division in the army and the entire force followed the directions of COAS. The army operates on the factor of unity of command, and wherever the chief of army staff looks, the army of 7 lakh (0.7 million) looks towards that direction,” the spokesperson said responding to a question.

The DG ISPR said that he wants to brief reporters on the national security situation and the formation commanders conference held two days ago.

The spokesperson said that Pakistan’s internal and border security situation is stable, and institutions are ready to deal with all sort of developments.

He said that the formation commanders conference has expressed complete confidence in the steps taken by the Pakistan Army in the context of national integrity, especially internal security, and to uphold supremacy of constitution and rule of law. The conference declared it the best step in the right direction, he said.

Everyone agreed that democracy, stability of institutions and rule of law best serve that national interest, the spokesperson said.

The military spokesperson then commented on the smear campaign launched in the wake of Khan’s ouster.

The armed forces draw their power from the support of people and without this the idea of national security is meaningless, so any intentional or unintentional attempt to create a division between the forces and society is in against the national security, he said.

The military spokesperson said that a sustained campaign had been launched against the military and involved the use of “deep fake” to create fake audios tapes of former generals.

He said that the campaign was trying to achieve through “rumours” and “baseless” character assassination what India could not in the past 70 years, but the military would not allow it.

“Constructive criticism is appropriate but based on rumour mills, creating a web of conspiracies, and engaging in baseless character assassination is not accepted at any rate,” he said.

The spokesperson said that “an organized malicious propaganda campaign” had been launched against the armed forces and its leadership and the deep fake audios were aimed at creating a rift between forces and society.

It is a request to the people and political parties to not drag military into politics, the spokesperson said.

The spokesperson also said that the change of prime minister through no-confidence vote was also part of democratic process and that it was the responsibility of the government to check the smear campaign against institutions.

General Iftikhar said that smear campaigns were not a new phenomenon but they now it involved technology and the country needs to draw laws to deal with the new situation.

The spokesperson said that the smear campaign against the military involved some social media profiles from abroad but another reason was that people forwarded social media content without confirming on their own.

The spokesperson confirmed that India was using Pakistan’s situation to interfere in the cyber domain and was targeting the military, but he also said that such foreign countries could not “create” the division but could amplify the fissures, he admitted, existed in the country to a certain extent.

The spokesperson said that the military and intelligence had gathered all the data on the social media smear campaign and will act over it, but he emphasized that the campaign began because “something was initiated” at home and then it was amplified from abroad.

Responding to questions after the briefing, the spokesperson commented on several claims made by Imran Khan in the past few weeks, including the one made about the nuclear programme on Wednesday night at his Peshawar rally.

The spokesperson said that nuclear programme, which could not be associated with any political party, is a national issue and it should not be dragged into political discussions.

There is not threat to the nuclear programme as Pakistan has the best safeguards in place, he said.

Khan had questioned the security of nukes under Shehbaz Sharif government, saying that will the nuclear programme will be safe under people who had come to power through “conspiracy.”

The general said that at the National Security Committee (NSC) meeting on March 31, the military and intelligence agencies provided their input to the forum and they were ready to give the same briefing to the Parliamentary Committee meeting, if the new government convenes such a meeting.

The spokesperson said that the NSC statement contained no mention of a foreign-funded conspiracy and that the minutes of the meeting could be declassified if the government decides.

“Whatever was concluded at the [NSC] meeting has been included on the statement. The words used in the statement are before you. As for as our intelligence agencies are concerned, they day in day out work on encountering such threats and such conspiracies. And if anyone attempts to hatch a conspiracy against Pakistan, we will not allow to it to succeed, and if anyone sees towards Pakistan with an evil eye, we will gouge that eye out… The statement clearly states what there was and what there was not. You can see clearly on it if there is any word [mentioning] conspiracy. I don’t think.”

“Another thing, if this input is to be de-classified, because there are minutes of the conference [NSC meeting], the government could declassify the minutes. The prime minister has probably said a day ago that he will call a meeting of the parliamentary committee [on national security]. If such meeting is called, the services chiefs will give the same input at the meeting, because since the input was given [to the NSC on March 31] the situation has not changed. I hope I have made myself clear.”

He said the cipher from the Pakistan ambassador to the US was also received by the ISI and it briefed the NSC based on that cipher.

Asked why Pakistan issued demarches to the foreign power, as NSC statement indicated, if there was no foreign conspiracy, the spokesperson said that demarches are given on different occasion for various reasons and in this case it was given for “undiplomatic language.”

Asked if the military had given three options to Imran Khan as the PTI leader had claimed, General Babar said that Imran Khan had requested the military to intervene and help find a solution to the political crisis and some possible solutions were discussed including the possibility that Khan steps down, but no option was given by the military.

He said the military was onboard on the then prime minister’s Moscow visit and supported it, though when the visit was being planned no one could imagine that Russia would invade Ukraine the day Imran Khan was in Moscow.

The military spokesperson again rejected a BBC story about Imran Khan’s ouster as “preposterous” and said that the army chief did not visit the PM House on April 9, when Khan was voted out.

About Imran Khan saying “absolutely not” to the United States over allowing the country to use Pakistan’s military bases, the spokesperson said that the Washington had not demanded bases in the first place, but if it had demanded, the military would have also taken the same — absolutely not — stance.

General Babar rejected the notion that the higher judiciary opened its doors at midnight on Saturday on any input from the military or there was any possibility of martial law.

Pakistan will move into future as a democracy and there will never be a martial law in the country, the spokesperson said adding that the Pakistan army had “turned a corner.”

He said if anyone has an evidence about military’s role in the opening of courts at midnight, they must produce it.

Pakistan will move into future as a democracy and there will never be a martial law in the country

The spokesperson said that Pakistan Army has no power to give an NRO to anyone.

In response to a question, the spokesperson said that the word “neutral” did not reflect the military’s role in the context of politics and “apolitical” was a better word.

He listed several occasions when COAS Bajwa distanced himself from political engagements.

Commenting on the restoration of stability in the country after recent political uncertainty, Gen Babar referred to the Pakistan Stock Market performance.

He said the COAS could not attend Shehbaz Sharif’s swearing-in ceremony because he was not well and did not come to office on the day.

About establishments’ relations with Imran Khan, the spokesperson said that military is supposed to have good relations with the government and COAS Bajwa still has “cordial” relations with Imran Khan at personal level. “There is absolutely no problem” between Khan and the military and some of PTI leaders have also made statements about it, he said.

He said political rallies such as the ones led by Khan were part of democratic process and everyone is free to say whatever they want, because Pakistan armed forces enabled the environment by rendering sacrifices. Earlier, it was not possible due to terrorism, he said.

It is for the politicians to decide when the elections will be held, the military spokesperson said.

“It is their [policymakers and politicians] job to decided” on what should be done because they have “the mandate and the moral authority,” he said.

Commenting on the incident in Lahore involving a Pakistan Army major, the spokesperson said that three men who beat up the officer have been arrested and that the army never lets its officers down.

He said the men would be brought to justice but he would not name anyone.

The military spokesperson praised former National Security Advisor Moeed Yusuf for his work but said that it was for the new government to decide who it was going to appoint the NSA.

General Babar said that COAS did not go beyond the stated government policy when he commented on the Russia-Ukraine war at an event in Islamabad, and said that the military provides its input at “strategic communication” level.

Earlier in the run up to the no-confidence motion, the Pakistan Army repeatedly said that it has nothing to do with the politics. On April 3, when National Assembly Deputy Speaker Suri disallowed the no-confidence motion against Imran Khan and the Supreme Court of Pakistan took suo moto notice of his move, Babar was asked by a group of reporters if the military had anything to do with the development.

The military spokesperson had responded by saying, “Absolutely not!.”

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