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Unnerved by Imran Khan’s rhetoric, Pakistan Army says it takes ‘strong exception’ to politicizing forces

Calling the practice of unsubstantiated, defamatory, and provocative statements/remarks “extremely damaging”, the Army said it expected everyone to abide by the law and keep the armed forces out of political discourse in the "best interest of the country". The statement came hours after Imran Khan, in a public rally in the northwestern city of Abbottabad, questioned the army’s alleged “neutrality”

May 09, 2022
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Pakistan’s former prime minister Imran Khan

Amid provocative rhetoric by Pakistan’s former prime minister Imran Khan questioning the “neutrality” of “institutions”, Pakistan Army said that it had taken a "strong exception" to dragging its name into the ongoing political discourse, which it said was “damaging” and “not in the best interest” of the nation.

The remark, released on Sunday by the media wing of the army, the ISPR, hinted at the army’s growing ease with what it called "intensified and deliberate attempts" of politicization of the institutions, by "some political leaders, journalists, and analysts".

In the statement, the Army said it noted that attempts to involve the armed forces and its senior leadership in the political discourse were "manifest through direct, insinuated or nuanced references made by some political leaders, few journalists and analysts on public forums and various communication platforms, including social media".

Calling the practice of unsubstantiated, defamatory, and provocative statements/remarks “extremely damaging”, the Army said it expected everyone to abide by the law and keep the armed forces out of political discourse in the "best interest of the country". The statement came hours after Imran Khan, in a public rally in the northwestern city of Abbottabad, questioned the army’s alleged “neutrality”.

"God will ask you if you struggled against an imported government [a reference he makes for the Sharif government]. You won't be able to say [and make the excuse that] you were neutral," Khan, who was voted out of power, was quoted as saying by Dawn. He had earlier made similar remarks, indirectly questioning the army’s stance.

Khan, who reportedly fell out with the army late in his tenure, alleged that his ouster from power was a part of a "foreign conspiracy" hatched by the US with the involvement of the country’s current rulers, a charge that the US strongly denied.

Significantly, the army, known to have played a crucial role in bringing him to power, and later supporting him for almost three years, didn’t save his government when the opposition parties, now in the ruling coalition, moved a no-confidence against Khan.

However, Khan isn’t alone. Last week, Maryam Nawaz, vice president of the ruling PML-N, also lashed out at former intelligence chief Lt Gen Faiz Hameed, one of Khan’s favorites in the army, for helping the former prime minister to target opposition leaders. 

Meanwhile, Shehbaz Sharif, the country’s prime minister, said that the government will take legal action against Khan for “hatching a grand conspiracy against Pakistan” by vilifying “institutions.”

“(The) Army is the institution of 220 million and not of a certain group. It has given a lot of sacrifices for the country. It should not be dragged into politics,” Sharif was quoted as saying by Dawn.

(SAM)

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