NSC statement did not include the word ‘conspiracy’: DG ISPR

Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) Director General (DG) Major General Babar Iftikhar said on Thursday that the word “conspiracy” was not used in the statement issued after a meeting of the National Security Committee last month.

He was answering a question by a journalist after his press conference. The journalist had asked the army leadership’s stance on Imran Khan’s claim of a foreign conspiracy to oust him and whether the NSC had endorsed such a claim.

“As far as a military response about the NSC meeting is considered, that stance, in that meeting was fully given, and then a statement was issued … which clearly says what was concluded in that meeting.

“The words used are in front of you … as I said … the words used are clear. Is there any word such as conspiracy used in it? I think not.”

Gen Iftikhar said the minutes of the NSC meeting can be declassified if the government decides.

He added that demarches were given, not just on conspiracies, but for many reasons. “It is a diplomatic procedure.”

The SOPs of such a cable, he explained, was that these ciphers were in the domain of the Foreign Office. “These are top secret documents and there is some circulation depending on which institution they’re related to. When institutions get such cables, the FO begins work if there is something on national security in them.”

Meanwhile, in response to a question regarding the army’s role in politics, the ISPR DG revealed that the former prime minister had approached the army chief to help find a solution to the political crisis.

“It is unfortunate that our political leadership was not ready to talk. So the army chief and DG ISI went to the PMO and three scenarios were discussed,” he said, recalling that one was that the no-confidence motion should be held as it was. The other were that the prime minister resigns or the no-confidence motion was retracted and the assemblies were dissolved.

“No option from the establishment was given,” Gen Iftikhar clarified.

He is briefing journalists on the recently held formation commanders conference at the General Headquarters on the recent disinformation campaign against the smear campaign against the military.

The ISPR DG rubbished rumours doing round on social media about the establishment meeting opposition parties. “There is no truth to this,” he asserted.

“I heard these things… Investigative journalism has gone forward a lot. If someone has evidence, bring it forward. There were no such contacts, no deal… For Gods’ sake, there is nothing like this,” he said, further refuting BBC’s story on the army chief meeting Imran Khan on the night of April 9.

“I said it that day too that whatever political process has run, army had no role or interference at any stage.”

The DG ISPR reaffirmed that the “establishment or army had the best of relations with the government” and assured that there was no disagreement between the two institution.

“In fact I’d say that the COAS has very good personal relation with Imran Khan and of mutual respect. It will stay the same… parties and governments change but army meets all of them. There are no issued of problems,” he reiterated.

Gen Iftikhar also pointed out that there were rumours about the army chief’s extension too. “Let me put this to rest. COAS is neither seeking extension nor will he accept it. He will be retiring on time on November 22.

“This is character assassination without evidence,” he added.

Gen Iftikhar continued that the word neutral doesn’t properly describe the army’s stance. He said this in answer to a question. “[The word] apolitical is better. In our constitutional and legal setup, no kind of political affiliation or interference should exist.”

He said that there had always been demands that army shouldn’t have a role in politics. “Today, it is being given a real form.”

The ISPR DG recalled that when the COAS last appeared in the security committee’s meeting, he told all the political leaders that the army wanted to keep itself away from politics.

“In another meeting in GB, when all the political leaders were present, the army chief had reiterated that we [army] wanted to stay away from politics. We don’t have anything to do with politics… I think this is very good decision and it will remain so,” he added.

Gen Iftikhar also clarified that the judiciary was free when a question regarding courts opening Sunday night was asked.

“If something has happened it was their decision… Pakistan’s sustenance relies on democracy and to strengthen it is everyone’s duty.”

The ISPR DG then said “absolutely not” to possibility of a martial law being imposed. “So our external challenges are so much that if our army could tackle those alone it would be a success. It is not fair to blame an institution which is always working for Pakistan’s security.”

Meanwhile, talking about the former premier’s visit to Russia, Gen Iftikhar confirmed that the army was onboard on it and was taken into confidence. “There was institutional input that he should go. It was in no one’s wildest dreams that they [Russia] would announce war when the prime minister was there, which was obviously very embarrassing.”

When a journalist asked him about army bases, the DG ISPR said that the ex-prime minister was asked about giving bases to US in an interview. “If a demand like that would have been made, the army would have had the same stance as the PM.

“But the reality is that they never asked for bases,” he revealed, adding that had they asked, the army would have had the same stance as the PM.