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Pakistan army chief cracks the whip to keep the military together

Bajwa has issued fresh instructions to all his commanders and key officers, including those associated with the spy agency Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), to keep out of politics and avoid interaction with politicians.

In a damage control exercise, Pakistan’s army chief Qamar Javed Bajwa is cracking the whip to keep  together the military, which is showing serious divisions after some senior officers openly declared their support for the ousted Prime Minister Imran Khan.

Bajwa has issued fresh instructions to all his commanders and key officers, including those associated with the spy agency Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), to keep out of politics and avoid interaction  with politicians, the Pakistani daily, The News International reported on its website.

The army chief’s orders follow a full-fledged campaign by the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI)—a party that Khan leads. The former Prime Minister’s followers have alleged that some officials belonging to the ISI have been trying to work against  the PTI in the upcoming by-elections in Punjab—the heartbeat of the country.

The PTI is specifically targeting the ISI’s sector commander in Lahore, Punjab’s capital, the daily reported. Khan also personally alleged that some of his candidates are being pressured to manipulate the by-elections through phone calls that are being made from unknown numbers.

The top-ranking officers openly supporting Khan is Lt. General (retired) Zaheerul Islam. Islam is a former chief of ISI. There are strong “rumours” that Islam could be PTI candidate in the next general elections.

“The Chairman of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Imran Khan is the need of the hour,” Islam has said,  praising Imran Khan during campaigns.

Veterans Of Pakistan VOP, an organisation with 50,000 commissioned and non-commissioned Armed Forces officers, in a statement last month have demanded fresh elections in  90 days, which could open the door for Khan to return. The Shehbaz Sharif government which replaced the one led by Khan has indicated no clear-cut timelines for the next general elections. 

Another pro-Khan acolyte, Lt General (Rtd.) Ali Quli Khan in fact addressed the media outside the Islamabad Press Club last month , saying that the Khan government had been ousted under US pressure.

Among the serving Generals, Lt. General Faiz Hamid, corps commander in Peshawar, and former ISI chief is widely believed to the spearhead of  officers backing Khan.

Khan has also mounted a concealed  attack on Bajwa, who is widely known in Pakistan as the head of the “establishment”. “If the establishment does not take the right decision, then I will give it to you in writing that they will be destroyed, and the armed forces will be the first ones to be destroyed and ultimately the country will break into three parts,” Khan had told Bol News in an interview early last month.

Also read:  Former ISI chief declares support for Imran Khan, revealing rifts in Pak military

Also read:  Pakistan army shows signs of splitting after pro-Imran veterans target Bajwa