Islamabad: President Arif Alvi has asked Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf chief Imran Khan to strictly direct his party leaders and social media team not to attack newly-appointed Army chief General Asim Munir and the powerful military, a media report said Tuesday, amid a tussle between the military and the former prime minister.
Khan, who blames the Army for playing a role in his ouster in April this year through a no-confidence vote, and his followers have relentlessly attacked former army chief Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa for allegedly allowing his government to fall.
Gen. Munir, who has headed both powerful intelligence agencies - the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and the Military Intelligence (MI), has replaced Gen. Bajwa, who retired on November 29 after a three-year extension.
A Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party source, while sharing a screenshot of the Whatsapp message conveyed to the party leadership and the social media team, claimed that President Alvi conveyed to Khan that the criticism of the new military establishment is like a ‘red-barrier,’ which should not be crossed, The News reported.
Alvi belonged to Khan's party before assuming presidency.
When asked about the president's reported message to Khan, party spokesman Fawad Chaudhry said that both the president and the PTI chairman were already clear that there would be no attack on the new military establishment and the Army chief.
"There can't be a perpetual fight with the institution," he was quoted as saying by the newspaper.
Chaudhry wondered why the PTI would criticise Gen. Munir, because his appointment was facilitated by Khan, it said.
He said that the new Army chief brings new policy and the PTI hoped that the military establishment under Gen (retd.) Bajwa allegedly did to the PTI during the last 7-8 months would not be done now.
In that Whatsapp group of “PTI Parliamentary Party”, the message of Khan was conveyed. "Chairman has directed all social media not to attack the new COAS on any forum & above to be strictly followed," the message read.
The person who shared the chairman's message emphasised that everybody should be informed of Khan's direction, the paper said.
This WhatsApp direction of Khan appears to be different from a similar message conveyed to PTI leaders and the social media team recently as was reported in The News.
Regarding this message, a PTI source had said that Khan in a Whatsapp group of party leaders and PTI social media managers had directed,"Please ensure there is no criticism of the new Chief of Army Staff." The directions of Khan are a clear sign of the party's effort to rebuild troubled relationships with the military establishment.
Although the PTI has fundamentally changed its policy towards the military establishment with the change of command, Khan himself is heard targeting a senior intelligence officer only a couple of days back.
Khan again called the senior ISI officer "Dirty Harry" (Major General Faisal Naseer). Two days back, Khan also tweeted to convey a subtle complaint to the present military establishment over the handling of PTI Senator Azam Swati.
Khan had said that internationally Pakistan and especially its military is being perceived increasingly negatively because the present "imported government" is seen as a mere puppet government.
Last week, Khan congratulated Gen Sahir Shamshad Mirza as Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee and Gen Munir as the new Chief of Army Staff.
Khan hoped the "new military leadership will work to end the prevailing trust deficit that has built up in the last 8 months between the nation and the state. Strength of the State is derived from its people." In the same tweet, Khan shared Pakistan founder Muhammad Ali Jinnah’s quote, "Do not forget that the armed forces are the servants of the people and you do not make national policy; it is we, the civilians, who decide these issues and it is your duty to carry out these tasks with which you are entrusted." Through these tweets and his continuing targeting of the senior ISI officer, Khan appears to be exerting pressure on the present military leadership to make certain changes in the ISI, the paper added.