- Information Minister Pervaiz Rashid says too early to talk about army chief’s extension, rejects Aitzaz Ahsan’s claim that posters were put up by govt to create uncertainty
- DG ISPR distances army and its affiliated organisations from posters being displayed in various cities
Taking strong exception to a campaign in which thousands of posters carrying the picture of Army Chief General Raheel Sharif and calling for his intervention have been simultaneously displayed in several cities, including Islamabad, Rawalpindi, Lahore, Karachi and Hyderabad, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) government’s chief spokesperson, Federal Minister for Information Pervaiz Rashid said on Tuesday that it is too early to discuss the extension in army chief’s tenure, and that those calling on him to take over “were fools who do not want the good of the country”.
The Pakistani military’s media wing also broke its silence on the issue, as its chief Lt Gen Asim Bajwa in a series of tweets said that the army has nothing to do with the posters carrying Gen Raheel Sharif’s picture which sprang up across the country on Sunday night.
“Army or any affiliated organisation have nothing to do with it,” he tweeted.
Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) leader Aitzaz Ahsan had earlier said that the banners were a ploy by the government to put pressure on the opposition and were being used to create an atmosphere of uncertainty.
Pervaiz Rashid rejected Ahsan’s statement that the banners also contained the phone numbers while the TV channels have been running the interviews of the persons behind the poster campaign.
Talking to media personnel after attending the funeral prayer of prominent broadcaster, Agha Nasir, in Islamabad on Tuesday, Pervaiz Rashid said that Operation Zarb-e-Azb has been effective in countering terrorism but any talk of extension to the army chief is premature.
He said those calling on the army chief to take over the country are fools.
“These people are fools and do not want good of the country,” added the information minister.
Criticising Aitzaz Ahsan’s statement, he said the barrister, nowadays, is in under the influence of non-serious people and he should respect the democratic norms.
The minister said that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, after successful heart surgery in London, has returned to the country and resumed his work.
To a query he said the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) is not utilising official machinery in Azad Jammu and Kashmir to win the upcoming polls. He said that the PML-N will win polls on its performance. He said that the government is informing the world community about India’s state terrorism in occupied Kashmir.
A little-known outfit of Punjab had put up posters in 13 cities across the country with its leaders urging Gen Raheel Sharif to impose martial law and form a government of technocrats.
The banners and posters had been put up in Lahore, Karachi, Peshawar, Quetta, Rawalpindi, Faisalabad, Sargodha, Hyderabad, etc, by the Move on Pakistan party and, unlike its earlier campaign requesting the army chief to reconsider his retirement in November, the message this time around is more ominous.
The banners sprung up overnight on all the major boulevards in the cities despite the presence of several security checkpoints and patrol.
One banner hanging at a traffic intersection on the road between the Rangers headquarters and the Chief Minister House in Karachi reads: Jaanay ki baatain hui puraani, Khuda k liye ab ajao (‘Talk of leaving has gotten old. For God’s sake just take over’).
The Move on Pakistan party — which has little grass-roots support — has been registered with the Election Commission of Pakistan for the past three years and a Faisalabad-based businessman, Mohammad Kamran, is its chairman. He runs a number of schools and ‘businesses’ in Faisalabad, Sargodha and Lahore.
The chief organiser of the campaign, Ali Hashmi, claimed thousands of banners have been put up across Pakistan. Some of those involved in the exercise told media personnel that the goal of their campaign is to implore the army chief to impose martial law and install a government of technocrats with Gen Raheel Sharif at its head.
“There is no choice but to enforce martial law and to form a government of technocrats.”
“The absence of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif from the country for more than a month proves that there is no need of a political government,” they added.
This is the second time banners have cropped up requesting the army chief to amend his retirement decision. In February, days after Gen Raheel Sharif announced he would step down later this year, banners were put up on the streets of the capital urging him to extend his tenure.
On January 25, Gen Raheel Sharif laid to rest speculation that he might continue to serve as the military chief beyond November 2016 when he is due to retire, insisting he preferred to relinquish the job – unlike two of his predecessors.
“I do not believe in extension and will retire on the due date,” Chief of Army Staff Gen Raheel had said in an unprecedented statement.
By declaring his intentions well in advance, Gen Raheel is likely to become the first army chief since 1998 to doff his military uniform after completing his three-year tenure.
According to the ISPR, General Raheel said: “Pakistan Army is a great institution. Efforts to root out terrorism will continue with full vigour and resolve. Pakistan’s national interest is supreme and will be safeguarded at all costs.”
The significance of the statement is that it was issued 10 months before the army chief was due to retire, which appeared to be a calculated move by General Raheel to avoid unnecessary debate over his future, something that does not seem to be working out the way he intended.
He was appointed as the country’s 15th army chief on November 29, 2013. He is scheduled to retire from his office on November 29 this year.