Pakistan’s ISI chief emerges from the shadows, roasts Imran Khan for his ‘lies’ | World News - Hindustan Times
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Pakistan’s ISI chief emerges from the shadows, roasts Imran Khan for his ‘lies’

Oct 27, 2022 11:27 PM IST

As he started his first media briefing, Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) chief Lt Gen Nadeem Anjum told reporters that he turned up because the army and ISI were being maligned through lies by Imran Khan.

NEW DELHI: Pakistan’s military launched a no-holds-barred onslaught against former premier Imran Khan on Thursday, accusing him and his supporters of maligning the army leadership and creating divisions within the polity and the people.

The televised press conference came a day ahead of a planned “long march” by Khan and his Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf (PTI) party to press for early elections (Videograb)
The televised press conference came a day ahead of a planned “long march” by Khan and his Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf (PTI) party to press for early elections (Videograb)

The Pakistan Army resorted to the unusual step of fielding the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) chief, Lt Gen Nadeem Anjum, to brief the media on the recent killing in Kenya of journalist Arshad Sharif, who was perceived to be close to Imran Khan.

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The first media briefing by an ISI chief, however, largely focused on Khan’s increasingly troubled relationship with the military following his ouster in a parliamentary no-confidence vote in April.

The move came a day ahead of a planned “long march” by Khan and his Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf (PTI) party to press for early elections. People familiar with the matter said authorities in Islamabad had pulled out all the stops to thwart Khan’s protest, including the use of thousands of cargo containers to block key roads and thoroughfares in the Pakistani capital.

During the media briefing by the ISI chief and the chief military spokesman, Lt Gen Babar Iftikhar, the military alleged its leadership was being maligned for refusing to help Khan through “illegal and extra-constitutional means” when he faced the trust vote in the National Assembly or lower house of Parliament.

The ISI chief said he was present when Pakistan Army chief Gen Qamar Bajwa was offered and declined an “indefinite extension” in March. Though Anjum didn’t specify who made the offer, it was obvious he was referring to Imran Khan as his government was in power at the time.

“You must be surprised to see me here today…I’m here because my institution (army) and agency (ISI) are being maligned through lies. I could not have remained silent anymore, especially when there is a threat of divisions because of one-sided lies,” Anjum said, speaking in a mix of Urdu and English.

“I’ve come to break the silence,” said Anjum, who has stayed away from the media and the limelight since he became the ISI chief last year, unlike his predecessors who had a relatively higher profile.

Pakistan’s military has been grappling with harsh criticism from Imran Khan and other PTI leaders since he lost the vote of no-confidence. Khan, who enjoyed the military’s unstinted support for more than three years, even resorted to the unusual step of calling on the army not to remain neutral in the current scenario.

However, both Anjum and Iftikhar said the military was apolitical and a decision had been made by its top leadership to stay out of politics. The generals also derided Khan’s efforts to use a so-called secret diplomatic cable to make claims that the US was behind an alleged conspiracy to remove him and his government from power.

Iftikhar said: “Lies were propagated and a narrative was crafted presenting the vote of no-confidence - a political, constitutional, and legal matter – as regime change operation, besides maligning the institution.”

This was done to pressure the army to resort to political intervention and “neutrality” was used as a euphemism to insult the army for staying away from politics, he added.

Anjum noted that such criticism was not because the military committed treachery or did something illegal and unconstitutional, but it was “because we refused to take illegal and extra-constitutional steps”.

He added that Bajwa, who is set to retire next month after completing an extended term in office, wants to leave as a legacy an institution that is apolitical.

The ISI chief also accused Khan of indulging in double-speak by “holding meetings with the military leadership behind closed doors at night and maligning them in the light of day”.

On Imran Khan’s long march, Anjum said the people’s right to protest was guaranteed by the constitution but political and economic instability will not be allowed. He said security forces will provide security for the long march and will play their due role if the civilian government seeks their assistance.

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