That the new DG ISPR, Maj Gen Ahmed Sharif, held a press conference on Tuesday was unusual in itself, because General Sharif had avoided the press limelight since taking over the job in December, to the extent that this was actually his first press conference. This has appeared a marked contrast to the much more frequent appearances before the press of his predecessor, Maj Gen Iftikhar Babar. General Babar’s most daring appearance was with the DG ISI, Lt Gen Naveed Anjum, whose appearance at a press conference was a first. General Anjum had initially ordered that even photographs of him should not be published, but made that one appearance, and then receded into the shadows. General Sharif has so far followed that policy, therefore his pronouncements about the security situation, both on the Eastern frontier, as well as internally, is all the more significant.
General Sharif gave out information about the number of LoC violations by India, 56, in the year so far. However, the information he gave about terrorist incidents and intelligence-based operations, 436 and 8269, indicated an increase in terrorism, and also an increase in the Army’s efforts to combat it. However, it was also a little surprising that the DG ISPR did not take up the issue of the Swat Counter-Terrorism Department blast in Kabal. This might be because the blast, which had led to 16 deaths and many more injuries; is being ascribed to a short circuit in the armory. It is not known what might have been in the armory which would lead to such a powerful blast at the building was reduced to rubble. Whether the blast was the result of terrorist action, or simply of police ineptitude, the fact that the DG ISPR, who belongs to one of the main forces combating terrorism, must be considered significant.
General Sharif’s low profile may not necessarily be a bad thing. It represents a reversion to the kind of anonymity that was observed traditionally. The role of the ISPR may have expanded in recent years, but the present COAS, Gen Asim Munir, seems to be following the policy his predecessor, Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa, had switched to, of strict neutrality, and refusal to intervene in politics. General Sharif repeated this assurance, and it is to be hoped that the remaining in the shadows is going to continue.