Pakistan: It’s Not “Defamatory” To Imply That The Next COAS Should Be Selected On Merit
Hopefully stakeholders will realize this and subsequently clarify their response in order to prevent it from unintentionally confusing the public.
Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR), the public relations wing of Pakistan’s powerful military-intelligence structures (collectively referred to as The Establishment in that country’s parlance), strongly reacted to former Prime Minister Imran Khan’s recent remark about the constitutional process of selecting the next Chief Of Army Staff (COAS).
The PTI Chairman, who was ousted in early April by a US-orchestrated but domestically driven post-modern coup as punishment for his independent foreign policy (particularly its Eurasian dimension and refusal to host US bases or at least grant transit rights to its drones), said that the imported government that replaced him “fear[s] that if a strong, patriotic army chief is appointed, he will question them.”
Accordingly, they “want their man because they have stolen money away”, predicting that a patriotic figure would investigate this. Former Human Rights Minister Shireen Mazari tweeted that his “statement was about merit & merit in selection of COAS cannot be made by two criminals whose only priority is to save their billions stashed abroad & who have zero credibility.”
Nevertheless, internationally recognized Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif – who remains so unpopular that his foreign-backed installation provoked some of the largest protests in Pakistan’s history over the past few months among those who want free and fair elections as early as possible – angrily lashed out at his predecessor and practically accused him of treason.
The incumbent tweeted that “Imran Niazi’s despicable utterances to malign institutions are touching new levels every day. He is now indulging in direct mud-slinging & poisonous allegations against Armed Forces & its leadership. His nefarious agenda is clearly to disrupt & undermine Pakistan”. This summarized ISPR’s sentiment that it expressed in its strongly worded statement on the same day:
“Pakistan Army is aghast at the defamatory and uncalled for statement about the senior leadership of Pakistan Army by Chairman PTI during a political rally at Faisalabad. Regrettably, an attempt has been made to discredit and undermine senior leadership of Pakistan Army at a time when the institution is laying lives for the security and safety of the people of Pakistan every day.
Senior politicians trying to stir controversies on appointment of COAS of Pakistan Army, the procedure for which is well defined in the constitution, is most unfortunate and disappointing. Senior leadership of Army has decades long impeccable meritorious service to prove its patriotic and professional credentials beyond any doubt.
Politicizing the senior leadership of Pakistan Army and scandalizing the process of selection of COAS is neither in the interest of the state of Pakistan nor of the institution. Pakistan Army reiterates its commitment to uphold the constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan.”
As can be seen, The Establishment regards the ousted premier’s remark as “defamatory”, believing it to be an attempt “to discredit and undermine senior leadership of Pakistan Army”. They also presented his intentions as having questioned these institutions’ “long impeccable meritorious service” that “prove its patriotic and professional credentials”.
By allegedly committing an action that’s neither in the state or Establishment’s interests, ISPR hinted that former Prime Minister Khan was flirting with a violation of the constitution, if not having already done so. It should also be said at this time that he was earlier charged with “terrorism” just because he publicly announced court cases against the authorities in response to their suspected human abuses.
Before proceeding, every reader should always remember that The Establishment has indeed ensured the continued existence of Pakistan for decades in the face of enormous conventional and unconventional threats. The institutions that its members represent are an inextricable part of the reason why the country has survived to celebrate 75 years of independence.
Its military and intelligence structures are the backbone of the Pakistani state, without which security couldn’t realistically be ensured and society would thus inevitably collapse. All patriotic citizens are therefore united in their sincere support for The Establishment and the countless number of their compatriots who’ve so valiantly served their country since its inception.
Having clarified that crucial point, it’s also an undeniable fact that The Establishment is comprised of human beings, none of whom is infallible. No one is perfect, not even this entity’s elite echelons, to say nothing of those political figures that replaced the former premier’s government and whom these same elite tacitly support. Even so, it’s understandable why some might be offended upon bringing this up.
Be that as it may, it’s not “defamatory” to imply like former Prime Minister Khan just did that the next COAS should be selected on merit. His Human Rights chief was right in reminding everyone of the incumbent premier’s history of corruption, not to mention that of other key members of his post-modern coup regime who could influence this sensitive selection process.
It’s unclear how ISPR misinterpreted the spirit of the former Prime Minister’s remark, but nobody should question their intentions since they’ve indeed proven their patriotic and professional credentials beyond any doubt exactly as their strongly worded statement said. Rather, the most respectful approach is to follow in Mazari’s footsteps by carefully expressing regret and concern.
She tweeted that “With utmost respect, after explaining with gt clarity thru ldrships' tweets &
@fawadchaudhry presser that IK reference viz coas issue was solely in ref to corrupt pml & ppp ldrship's history of playing politics with mly, from Memogate to DawnLeaks, the ISPR PR was so unnecessary.” That’s a valid point, as was her follow-up tweet.
Mazari added that “Sadly, the press statement is of concern bec it seems to have misunderstood what IK said despite clarifications; & at a time when PDM is deliberately distorting IK statement to target him. At no point in Fsbd speech did IK criticise mly or its leadership.” Everything that she wrote is factually correct, hence why this development is both regretful and concerning.
Regarding the first reaction, it’s always unfortunate whenever there’s a misunderstanding between any pair of parties, especially the structural backbone a country and its former leader, who are equally patriotic. As for the second, one can’t help but worry about whether the COAS selection process will truly be based on merit considering that a very corrupt individual is responsible for this major decision.
Former Prime Minister Khan didn’t intend to imply anything “defamatory”, “uncalled for”, “discrediting”, “intended to undermine”, “controversial”, “unpatriotic”, “scandalous”, “anti-state”, or “anti-Establishment” like ISPR’s statement either claimed or implied. Hopefully stakeholders will realize this and subsequently clarify their response in order to prevent it from unintentionally confusing the public.