The Pakistan Army came to the defense of former spy chief, and current Peshawar Corps Commander, Lt. Gen. Faiz Hameed on Thursday, urging media and politicians to avoid issuing “inappropriate” statements that seek to drag the military into politics.
The former chief of the Inter-Services Intelligence entered the public discourse once again in the past week after ousted prime minister Imran Khan told an interviewer that he had wanted to retain Hameed as spy chief due to the situation in Afghanistan and the possibility of the Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) mounting a no-confidence vote against him. This disclosure was followed by PMLN Vice-President Maryam Nawaz linking Khan’s political fortunes to the Peshawar Corps Commander’s work as the spy chief. The narrative found new life when Pakistan Peoples Party Co-Chairman Asif Ali Zardari told a journalist during a press conference that Hameed had been “sidelined.”
In a statement—the second in a week referring to criticism of armed forces’ personnel by politicians, media, and social media users—the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) said that the Peshawar Corps was one of the most “illustrious” formations of the Pakistan Army that had been spearheading the country’s fight against terrorism for two decades.
“This vital Corps’ leadership has always been placed with the best, professional hands,” it said, adding that recent political statements about the Corps Commander were highly inappropriate. Such statements, it stressed, “undermined the honor and morale of the institution and its leadership.”
The soldiers and officers of the Pakistan Army, it emphasized, were regularly placing their lives on the line for the sovereignty and sanctity of the country. “It is, therefore, expected that the senior political leadership of the country refrains from passing objectionable remarks against the institution,” it added.
Shortly after issuing the statement, the spokesperson of the military’s media wing, Maj. Gen. Babar Iftikhar, told private broadcaster Dunya News that the armed forces had issued “repeated requests” to keep them out of politics. Reiterating that the “entire” political leadership of the country had been issuing some “very inappropriate statements” about the armed forces in recent days, he emphasized that the armed forces had “nothing to do with politics as per the law and Constitution of the country.”
“We, as an institution, have been showing tolerance for a long time,” he said. “The Army is playing an important role in the internal security of the country on all fronts, therefore, the focus of the military leadership is on those responsibilities,” he said, adding that talking about the post of the Army chief without any specific reason was tantamount to making it controversial.
“It is neither in the interest of the country nor in the interest of the institution to talk about the position of the Army chief without any reason,” he said, and noted that those who believed there was a division in the armed forces were mistaken.
To a question, he said that it was up to politicians to decide when to call elections and the Army had no role in it. “Whenever the Army is called upon in a political matter, it becomes controversial,” he said, adding that the armed forces would always be ready to offer their services for security during polling, if required to do so.
To another question, the Army spokesperson rebutted claims that the Chief of Army Staff Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa was inviting politicians for meeting. He said that the Army chief only met politicians when they sought meetings with him.