No martial law,
Gen Bajwa to retire
on 29th November,
no extension: DG-ISPR


RAWALPINDI: Pakistani military spokesperson Major General Babar Iftikhar said on Thursday the army should not be dragged into politics, after weeks of political turmoil in Pakistan that saw the ouster of one prime minister and the election of a new one.

“The army has nothing to do with the political process that took place a few days back in the country,” Iftikhar told reporters, referring to the no-trust vote on Sunday. “Do not drag the army into political matters.”

Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) Director General Major General Babar Iftikhar on Thursday said that the Chief of Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa is neither seeking the extension of his tenure nor will he accept it.

Addressing a press conference in Rawalpindi, Maj Gen Babar said that any effort to create a rift between people and the armed forces is against national interest.

 While welcoming constructive criticism, Maj Gen Babar said a “malicious campaign is being run against the army and its leadership, using even deep-fake technology.”

RAWALPINDI: Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) Director General Major General Babar Iftikhar on Thursday

“There is an engineered movement designed against the Pakistan military”, he said, adding that character assassination of the military on the basis of rumours is not tolerable under any circumstances.

The United States did not ask Pakistan to provide bases to maintain its intelligence-gathering and counterterrorism presence in the region, the military said on Thursday.

“During an interview, the [then] prime minister was asked a question [whether he’d allow the US to operate from within Pakistan] and he responded by saying ‘absolutely not’. But did the Americans really seek the bases […] I think the answer is no,” Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) director-general Babar Iftikhar told a press briefing.

“Had they [the US] asked the military leadership [to provided bases], the answer would’ve been the same.”

The briefing coincides with an attempt by Imran Khan, who was ousted from the office of prime minister over the weekend through a contentious vote on no-confidence, to build an anti-West narrative around the developments by blaming an American plot for the toppling of his government.

Among the reasons that led Khan to believe the Joe Biden administration was not pleased with him was his blunt response to the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan and Pakistan’s subsequent refusal to provide bases for further operations inside Afghanistan.

“In discussions between American and Pakistani officials, the Pakistanis have demanded a variety of restrictions in exchange for the use of a base in the country, and they have effectively required that they sign off on any targets that either the CIA or the military would want to hit inside Afghanistan,” a New York Times report said in August last year.

Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) director William J. Burns “made an unannounced visit in recent weeks to Islamabad, to meet with the chief of the military and the head of the directorate of Inter-Services Intelligence”, the report added.

It also revealed Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III has had frequent calls with the Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa about getting Islamabad’s help for future US operations in Afghanistan.

Interestingly, the report was refuted neither by the government nor the military which is usually quick to respond in such scenarios as demonstrated by its response to a recent BBC story.

Responding to the Lettergate controversy and Khan’s claim of a foreign conspiracy to oust him, Gen. Iftikhar said the word “conspiracy” was not used in the statement issued after a meeting of the National Security Committee (NSC) last month.

“As far as the military response about the NSC meeting is concerned, that stance, in that meeting was fully given, and then a statement was issued … which clearly says what was concluded in that meeting,” he said, adding that the words used in that statement were clear.

“The words used are in front of you … as I said … the words used are clear. Is there any word such as conspiracy used in it? I think not.”

He also clarified that Army Chief Gen. Bajwa is neither asking for an extension nor will he accept it.

“He [Gen. Bajwa] will retire on time on November 29, 2022,” Gen. Iftikhar said.

To another question, he reiterated that the Army has nothing to do with politics. “There is no interference by the Army in any by-election or local bodies’ election,” he said.

In the past, some politicians used to allege they had “received calls” but nothing like this had been repeated this time. He reiterated that if anyone accused the military of exceeding its mandate, they should provide evidence to prove their claims.

General Iftikhar said the minutes of the NSC meeting can be declassified if the government decides.

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

The DG ISPR explained that issuance of demarches are not specific to hatching of conspiracies but can also be given for other reasons. “In this case, it was given for undiplomatic language and is equal to interference.”

The SOPs of such a cable, he continued, was that these ciphers were in the domain of the Foreign Office. “These are top secret documents and there is some circulation depending on which institution they’re related to. When institutions get such cables, the FO begins work if there is something on national security in them.”