Pakistan Army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa has issued fresh directions to his commanders and officers, including from the ISI, to stay away from politics after leaders of ousted prime minister Imran Khan-led party alleged that some officials of the country’s intelligence agency were trying to “manipulate” the upcoming by-elections in Punjab, according to a media report on Monday.
Pakistan Army had earlier said that it has nothing to do with politics and it would remain apolitical in the future as well.
Chief of the Army Staff (COAS) General Bajwa has issued fresh directions to all his commanders and key officers to stay away from politics and avoid interacting with politicians, The News newspaper reported.
These directions have been given in the wake of Imran Khan-led Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf’s propaganda against the military establishment alleging certain ISI officials of trying to manipulate the upcoming by-elections in Punjab to the disadvantage of the party, the report said.
Defence sources lament that the ISI sector commander, Lahore, Brigadier Rashid, who is being maligned by the PTI leaders, is not even in Lahore for over a fortnight in connection with some of his professional work in Islamabad.
PTI leader and former health minister Punjab Yasmin Rashid recently named the sector commander and alleged him of having been involved in politics to manipulate by-elections in Punjab.
Former foreign minister and Deputy Chairman of PTI Shah Mehmood Qureshi had also alleged that some invisible forces are active to influence the by-elections in the province against the party.
Recently, former prime minister Khan also alleged that some of his candidates have complained to him of receiving telephone calls from unknown numbers.
Months back, operatives of the country’s top intelligence agency, the ISI, were strictly directed to stay away from politics.
The by-polls on the 20 vacant seats of Punjab Assembly will be held on July 17.
Pakistan Army, which has ruled the coup-prone country for more than half of its 73-plus years of existence, has hitherto wielded considerable power in the matters of security and foreign policy.
Khan, the 69-year-old cricketer-turned-politician, was voted out of power in April through a no-confidence motion, which he alleges was masterminded by the US with the help of local players over his pursuance of an independent foreign policy. His supporters used social media to target the army for doing nothing to save his government.
Khan is the only Pakistani prime minister to be ousted in a no-confidence motion in Parliament. He was replaced by Shehbaz Sharif of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz.