Pakistani Military Admits to Political Meddling, Wants Khan to Apologize

The implied admission of blatant political interference by Pakistani generals has plunged the South Asian nation further into turmoil, potentially eroding the facade of civilian governance altogether.

Posted on 05/8/24
By Jay Rover | Via PakistanWeek.org
Inter-Services Public Relations Director General Maj-Gen Ahmed Sharif Chaudhry addressing a press conference on May 7. (Photo via video stream)

For over two years, Pakistani military leaders have refuted any involvement in the nation’s complex political affairs. Imran Khan, the imprisoned former elected prime minister, along with his Pakistan Tehrik e Insaf (PTI), has continuously alleged that the former army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa colluded with the United States to topple his government in April 2022. Both Bajwa and the United States have vehemently rejected Khan’s accusations.

However, the situation took a heated turn on May 7th when the official spokesperson of the Pakistan Army, Maj-Gen Ahmed Sharif Chaudhry, stepped into the political arena on behalf of the military institution in a highly blatant manner at a lengthy press conference.

He laid out conditions to the leader of Pakistan’s largest political party for reconciling with the military. According to him, any potential dialogue with the PTI could only occur if the party publicly apologized to the nation and committed to embracing constructive politics instead of promoting chaos.

“There is only one way back for such political anarchists that it (PTI) asks for an earnest pardon in front of the nation and promises that it will forgo politics of hate and adopt constructive [style of] politics.”

Realizing that he had stepped out of his constitutional mandate, the general added: “In any case, such dialogue should take place between political parties. It is not appropriate for the army to be involved.”

The press conference in Rawalpindi came just hours before the first anniversary of last year’s May 9th events that saw orchestrated protests and a few incidents of attacks on military installations in some of South Asia’s most fortified garrisons, following Imran Khan’s arrest.

The events unleashed a brutal state crackdown against Khan and his PTI. Thousands of political workers are still behind bars on unsubstantiated grounds as an increasing number of Pakistanis vocally accuse the military of conspiring to stage the purported attacks to justify its tyranny and massive rigging in this year’s February 8 elections. The election results were marred by widespread allegations of rigging.

The military’s naked involvement in vote fraud, forced disappearances, putting pressure on judges and their families, and muzzling the press freedom in a fashion Pakistan has rarely witnessed has brought the military’s popularity to its lowest ebb in the country’s history.

“Political volatility increased and authorities continued their assault on dissenting voices, political opposition, and people critical of the government and the military establishment,” Amnesty International said in its 2023 report on Pakistan, released earlier this year. “Human rights violations such as enforced disappearances, arbitrary arrests and detentions, excessive restrictions on protests and violence against religious minorities continued unabated with little or no justice for victims,” it added.

The military led by its controversial chief General Asim Munir has been towing a tough line on Khan and has been accusing him of doing politics of violence a chaos, a claim rejected not just by Khan, his PTI but also by common Pakistanis and sections of media that have struggled to maintain its independence despite the unprecedented military-led crackdown.

Pakistan ranked 152nd on the 2024 press freedom index released by global media watchdog group Reporters Sans Frontiers. It was at 150th place on the index in 2023, showing growing curbs on press freedom.

“Pakistan is one of the most dangerous countries in the world for journalists, with three to four murders each year that are often linked to cases of corruption or illegal trafficking and which go completely unpunished,” RSF said. “Any journalist who crosses the red lines dictated by Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) – the military’s media wing – is at risk of being the target of in-depth surveillance that can lead to abduction and detention for varying lengths of time in the state’s prisons or less official jails. Furthermore, Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), Pakistan’s leading military intelligence agency, is prepared to silence any critic once and for all,” it added in a statement posted on its website.

Pakistan has banned X (formerly Twitter) because its military has publically condemned it as an instrument of evil forces. General Munir has repeatedly blamed social media for spreading disinformation and developing false perceptions that the state was unraveling. “By creating an atmosphere of anxiety, despair, and chaos on social media, an impression is being created through false news that the state is losing its existence,” he said in December last year. Not surprisingly, X went down on February 17, hours after Commissioner Rawalpindi, who later walked back his claim, declared he was involved in large-scale vote manipulation.

Once more, General Chaudhry, the deputy to General Munir, demonstrated on May 7th that the military shows no inclination to relinquish its unconstitutional hold on power or its disdain for social media. Despite stating at his contentious press conference that he would limit media questions to security matters, he devoted nearly the entire session to discussions on the nation’s politics, a domain beyond the military’s mandate according to Pakistan’s constitution. The authoritarian approach of the military, marked by harsh crackdowns, has galvanized the Pakistani populace against its heavy-handed treatment of pro-democracy PTI supporters and independent media outlets.

Key points of the general’s political press conference:

  • Says the only way back for PTI is if it offers an apology.
  • Agrees to the judicial commission for May 9 events, but says it should probe other matters as well including the 2014  sit-in Imran Khan staged.
  • Denied Pakistan having given any military bases to anyone.
  • Repeated the claims that the plot to kill Chinese engineers in Bisham was hatched in Afghanistan.
  • Claimed the army leadership was aware of “multiple threats” from India.
  • Claimed that evidence was present of Indian communication and killings on Pakistani soil. However, did not explain why Pakistan and its military have kept mum on the issue despite naked threats from the Indian leadership
  • Claimed that Pakistan will continue speaking for Palestinians. However, did not explain why Pakistan has maintained an undeclared ban on pro-Palestine protests
  • Defended forced repatriation of Afghan refugees. However, did not explain why thousands of Taliban were brought, trained, and armed on Pakistani soil for years, and were responsible for more than 2,400 US soldiers’ deaths

WHAT NEXT AFTER MILITARY HAND IS OUT OF THE GLOVES

Now that the military has openly admitted its unconstitutional meddling in politics, it is getting the same public rebuke that its corrupt comrades in crime, led by its puppet prime minister Shahbaz Sharif, are getting — a massive public condemnation. The social media was on fire as soon as General Chaudhry ended his political presser. He was condemned not just by Khan’s PTI in a strong rebuke but also by common Pakistanis on social media.

PTI, led by Khan, dismissed General Chaudhry’s political address, affirming its willingness to support an impartial judicial inquiry into not only the alleged attacks on military facilities on May 9th but also issues such as electoral fraud, enforced disappearances, restrictions on independent media, violations of freedom of speech and association, the military’s involvement in the events leading to Khan’s removal from power, and various other incidents with visible footprints of the military and its feared agencies.

The military is yet to hold an internal investigation into its failure to secure its installations inside its fortified cantonments on May 9th. Even though it reprimanded a few senior officers transparency of the process remains under the carpet.


Numerous users on X, despite being banned in Pakistan, came down hard on the generals. There were hundreds of derogatory tweets targetting the generals. Many X users tried to answer the general’s claims in their way.

The mood of Pakistani generals suggests that they are not prepared to give the reins of power back to the true representatives of the people. At the same time they are delusional and think that in the toxic and unsafe political environment they have created they will bring investment from overseas, especially the Gulf Arab monarchies. According to Pakistan watchers here in the US, foreign investment will need political stability, economic reforms, and peaceful conditions. At present, Pakistan has none. Its military has shifted from a focus on warfare to becoming a politically manipulative entity, while terrorism is rearing its ugly head again. Moreover, public confidence in state institutions is so low that there is minimal interest in acquiring shares in its national airline, PIA.

Islamabad’s grapevines have it that a high-level Saudi delegation left Islamabad hours after its arrival for no known reasons in recent days. The rumors making rounds in the federal capital are that the Saudis did not see what they were promised by the military and its political touts in government during their brief stay.

“Pakistan is headed in the wrong direction and the ongoing confrontation could spin out of control and open a new and more dangerous phase of instability. Reason: This time the confrontation will not just be between the generals and the PTI supporters but between the military and the man on the street, which is dangerous and will be self-destructive,” noted one Pakistani analyst based in New York.

This article first appeared in PakistanWeek.org. Click here to go to the original.

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