Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) Director General Major General Asif Ghafoor Wednesday said Pakistan Army is engaged in defence of the country and has no role in Azadi March by the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F).
“Pakistan Army is a non-political institution and security engagements it’s involved in do not allow it to become part of any political activity,” Maj Gen Ghafoor said while talking to a private news channel. “This dharna (sit-in) is a political activity and the armed forces of the country have no role in it. The work we are involved in does not allow us to become a part of any such [political] activity,” he reiterated.
The ISPR chief said the military supported government during PTI’s dharna of 2014. “Maulana Fazlur Rehman keeps Pakistan as dear to him as we all do … and he is I believe aware of its [sit-in’s] implications at the international level,” he said. “I do not speak for myself and represent my institution during media interactions,” he added referring to criticism by the JUI-F chief on his last statement on Azadi March.
To a question about involvement of Pakistan Army in elections, he said army was called on the requisition of the government for security purposes. He said army is an impartial institution and it performs its duty within the domain of the constitution. “Army neither has any role in country’s electoral process nor has it any desire to do so,” he added.
“The army has no say whatsoever in matters linked to elections … the government with the input of other political parties decides about formation of Election Commission and its head, as well as, interim government decide where and how many troops will be deployed [during polls],” the ISPR chief went on to say. “Let me say one more thing … the army chief interacted [with politicians] twice, once in Senate and again during parliamentary committee’s briefing in the aftermath of February 27 events, where he suggested forming a parliamentary committee which can formulate a strategy on key national issues,” he said. “Even on election, the army chief has recommended devising a system devoid of army’s involvement … we are the last one who want any duty in elections. Army will not partake in election process if governments do not call it in,” he added. About Kartarpur Corridor, the army spokesman said this is a one-way corridor as Sikh Yatrees coming from India will be bound within the boundary of Kartarpur Corridor and after performing their religious rituals, they will return to India from the same route the same day.
In reply to a question, he said no compromise will be made on the security and sovereignty of the country. “Taking this opportunity I will like to clear one more point here that entry under the Kartarpur initiative will be a legal entry, a permit-based entry, and in accordance with the passport-based identity process … there will be no compromise on security or sovereignty, he said. “We should respect the religious places of Sikh community and avoid politicizing opening of the corridor,” he added.
Prime Minister Imran Khan had last week waived off passport requirement for the Sikh pilgrims traveling to Pakistan on the occasion of Baba Guru Nanak’s 550th birth anniversary. In a tweet, the prime minister had said members of the Sikh community coming to Kartapur from India will not need a passport and will be able to travel with a valid identity card.
Commenting on the Kashmir issue, Maj Gen Ghafoor said the armed forces have been sacrificing for the last 70 years, adding that the government and the military have neither made any compromises on the issue nor will they ever think of doing so in the future. He said the Karatrpur initiative has been taken solely for the Sikh community and it has no link with the Kashmir issue