Pakistan’s powerful military warned its critics on Sunday to avoid sullying the top institution as it took a “strong exception” to “deliberate and intensified attempts” to drag it into politics after the ouster of Imran Khan’s government on last month.
The 69-year-old cricketer-turned-politician was ousted from power last month through a no-confidence motion that he says was masterminded by the United States with the help of local players in its quest for an independent foreign policy. His supporters used social media to attack the army for doing nothing to save the government from him.
In a statement, the army said that the efforts being made by certain politicians, journalists and analysts to push the institution and its leadership in political affairs are “extremely damaging.”
“Recently, there have been intensified and deliberate attempts to drag the Pakistan Armed Forces and its leadership into the ongoing political discourse in the country,” according to the statement.
“These attempts are manifested through direct, insinuated or nuanced references to the Armed Forces, as well as their high command, made by some political leaders, some journalists and analysts in public forums and various communication platforms, including social networks” . The army further said that this practice of baseless, defamatory and provocative statements and comments was extremely harmful.
“The Pakistan Armed Forces make a strong exception to this illegal and unethical practice and expect everyone to abide by the law and keep the Armed Forces out of political discourse in the best interest of the country,” he added.
The military has ruled Pakistan for nearly half of its history and played a behind-the-scenes role in sending several elected governments home.
But his spokesman told a news conference last month that the military had decided to stay out of politics, especially the ongoing political dispute between former Prime Minister Khan and his opponents.
However, that did not stop Punjab Governor Omar Sarfraz Cheema, who on Thursday called for the army to intervene to pull the province out of the crisis.
In a letter to army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa, Cheema asked him to play a decisive role in the current chaotic times, as he believed that the constitutional crisis-ridden Punjab had been taken hostage.
According to Dawn, an anti-military hashtag generated more than 69,000 tweets and a similar one more than 410,000 tweets in recent days. The Federal Bureau of Investigation had also launched a crackdown to arrest those who defamed the military.
Recently, a video clip of Bol TV presenter Sami Ibrahim criticizing General Bajwa went viral, prompting the FIA to launch an investigation against him.