Islamabad: Former Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan has landed in a new controversy after the country’s powerful army reacted strongly to some “defamatory” statements made by him on the appointment of the new military chief.
Addressing a rally in Faisalabad in the Punjab province on Sunday night, Khan accused the government of trying to appoint a “favourite” as the next army chief.
The tenure of the current chief, General Qamar Javed Bajwa ends in November this year. He was given an extension in August 2019 when Khan was the prime minister.
“They are afraid that if a strong army chief is appointed, a patriotic army chief is appointed who will ask them [about corruption], so it is because of this fear that they want to appoint their army chief,” Khan said at the rally organised by his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party.
In a harshly worded statement, the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR), the Pakistani army’s media wing, said it was “aghast” at the remarks, calling them “defamatory and uncalled for”. The statement said the military leadership has carried out a “decades-long impeccable meritorious service to prove its patriotic and professional credentials beyond any doubt”.
“Politicising the senior leadership of Pakistan Army and scandalising the process of selection of the COAS (chief of army staff) is neither in the interest of the state of Pakistan nor of the institution,” the ISPR statement said. Pakistan’s military establishment has ruled over the country for more than half of its 75-year history as an independent nation.
The ruling coalition, Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM), also condemned the cricketing icon-turned-politician’s remarks. “He is now indulging in direct mudslinging and poisonous allegations against the Armed Forces and its leadership. His nefarious agenda is clearly to disrupt and undermine Pakistan,” Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif tweeted.
President Arif Alvi, who belongs to Khan’s PTI, appeared to distance himself from his party chief’s statement, saying there should be no doubt about the country’s military.