Director-General Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) Major General Babar Iftikhar on Thursday categorically stated that Chief of the Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa is not seeking an extension and will neither accept one.
He added that the chief will complete his tenure in November this year.
“Let me put this to rest. The chief of army staff is neither seeking an extension nor will he accept an extension. No matter what, he will be retiring on the 29th of November 2022.”
Talking about the role of the armed forces in the country’s politics, Babar said the army has “nothing to do with politics” and said the institution has decided to remain apolitical in the future as well.
“A better word than neutral is apolitical for describing our role,” said the army spokesperson.”
The briefing to the journalist comes on the heels of the recent Corps Commanders Conference during which the military’s top brass assured that the “Pakistan Army is aware of its responsibilities and shall continue to defend territorial integrity and sovereignty of Pakistan against all internal and external threats under all circumstances”.
“This decision was not taken to harm or benefit anyone. This is the constitutional role of armed forces which we are trying to fulfil.”
“Whatever happened during the last few days, is not part of the constitutional process? It is not the army’s place to offer someone an NRO.”
In another answer to a question related to Imran’s claim of a foreign conspiracy to oust his government, the DG said the word ‘conspiracy’ was not used in the statement issued after a meeting of the National Security Committee.
“As far as the military’s response about the NSC meeting, the stance was fully given and a statement was issued which clearly shows what was concluded in that meeting.”
“The words are in front of you, the words are clear. Was there any word such as conspiracy used? I do not think so,” said Gen Babar and added that the government can declassify the minutes of the NSC meeting if it so desires.
Gen Babar also dismissed rumours of the establishment meeting opposition parties before the vote of no confidence against Imran. “There is no truth to this,” he said and added there were no such contacts and “no deal” was done.
Answering a question regarding the United States asking for operational bases within Pakistani territory and former premier Imran Khan’s reply of “absolutely not”, the military spokesperson clarified that if bases were asked for, the “army would have the same stance”.
“And in reality, they did not even ask for bases and there was no mention of it on any level.”
When asked about the events on the night of April 9 and rumours of an impending martial law, Gen Babar said there was no such thing happening at the time. “Do you have any evidence of it? Are courts under the Army? Our courts are free and if something happened at the courts, it was their own action.”
“It is the duty of everyone to strengthen democracy and the strength of our democracy are our national institutions. Whether it’s the parliament, the Supreme Court or the armed forces. Pakistan will progress with democracy.”
“There will never be another martial law in Pakistan,” said the military spokesperson.
Dispelling another rumour regarding the army chief’s absence from the oath-taking ceremony of Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, the army spokesperson said Gen Bajwa was “not well”.
“He was not well that day and had not even come to the office. That is a simple explanation and there is nothing more to it.”
Referring to former premier Imran’s visit to Russia, Gen Babar said the army was onboard with the decision to go to Moscow and said there was “institutional input” that he should go. “It was not in anyone’s wildest dreams that they [Russia] would start the war when the prime minister was there and it was obviously very embarrassing”.
During the media briefing, he also said that rallies were a part of democracy and the army has “provided an enabling environment to the people by risking its lives”.
“There is nothing wrong with people coming out and expressing their thoughts,” he added and further said that some stability was returning to the country but it would take time to keep it sustainable.
“Political stability drives everything. National security rests on it.”
In regards to the ‘malicious’ social media campaign against the armed forces, when the spokesperson was asked what the military was doing to curtail the activity, Gen Babar said it is the responsibility of the government to take measures according to law as the military does not have the power to do so.