An unusual press conference

ByUzair Ali

He is in the finance sector


October 29, 2022

Press Conference

Uzair Ali mentions an unprecedented press conference happening

The ‘press conference’ was not only unusual but also raised more questions than provided answers. There are divided opinions about the efficacy of holding the press conference with most observers considering it to be quite a hastily thought move but some justifying it on the grounds that the army leadership considered it important to warn its rank and file of the impending ‘Erdogan moment’ and urging it to unite behind it to avoid getting besieged by public outrage.

In this context, it must be kept in view that the army leadership has been trying hard for the last three or four years to ward off the eventuality of public protestation reaching Rawalpindi and so far it has evaded it but political leaders, from many political groupings, have openly mentioned doing this and it will not be possible indefinitely to avoid it.

It must also be borne in mind that no political group has good experience in dealing with the powerful establishment and all are unwilling to deal with it anymore and this is a rickety situation for all the stakeholders. In an explosive and unexpected press conference, Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) chief Lt Gen Nadeem Ahmed Anjum joined Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) DG Lt Gen Babar Iftikhar to speak about journalist Arshad Sharif’s killing and former premier Imran Khan’s confrontational narrative against the military as well as a host of other related topics.

This is the first time in Pakistan’s history that the head of the country’s spy agency has directly addressed the media and this instance was widely commented upon not only inside the country but also outside. The presser was attended by a pick of journalists as such events are highly sought-after invites and very few miss participating in them.

PTI’s Propaganda

Though the proceedings are heavily censored when telecast eventually but still some pointed questions are aired indicating that the army does allow a fair degree of criticism to be aired and mostly responds good-naturedly. It may well be argued that such a change of attitude is due to the altered situation in the status quo but still it points out a visible prudence in the thinking process of the institution.

The ISPR chief mentioned that his institution regretted the death of Arshad Sharif and shed light on his killing in Kenya and the circumstances surrounding it. He said that this press conference was held to bring to fore that the facts and fiction and opinion can be differentiated.

The most obvious outcome of this press conference was that it signaled the end of the establishment’s relationship with PTI and smarting from recent allegations and insinuations of its involvement in the killing of Arshad Sharif the army positioned its senior officers to respond to counter the propaganda of PTI.

The DG ISI stated that he was forced to make an appearance and set the record straight because his institution and its people were being relentlessly attacked. DG ISI was compelled to come out in the open though he professed to remain in the shadows as his profession entailed quite rightfully expressed at length his indignation at those slandering the armed forces.

He stated that when lies are being spoken so easily, fluently, and without inhibition from one side that there is a danger of chaos and upheaval in the country, the truth cannot remain unspoken for too long.

PTI’s Press Conference

The two generals dismantled the PTI’s post-ouster narrative and presented their side of the story by stating that calling someone a traitor, or Mir Jaffar or Mir Sadiq without proof cannot be condemned enough and that it is an allegation that is hundred percent based on lies.

DG ISI dismissed the Cablegate controversy rightly and castigated PTI for targeting the army leadership wrongly for it. In this context, he mentioned that the army leadership is not a traitor as they did nothing unconstitutional or illegal. The allegation of treachery was leveled only because they refused to do something unconstitutional and illegal.

The spy chief revealed that the army chief was offered an unlimited extension in March in return for thwarting the vote of no-confidence. He reiterated that the offer was made in front of him adding that if it was thought that the army chief was a traitor why would he be offered extension?

Lt Gen Anjum also confirmed that two meetings had been held since then, with President Arif Alvi acting as a mediator and that in both meetings, Imran Khan had been told that whatever he desired would have to be sought through the Constitution and the law. It is likely that Imran Khan pushed the army to pressure the government to call early elections in those meetings.

This unusual press conference is a clear indication that all channels of communication between the establishments and PTI are broken and so is the case with the negotiations with the coalition government. It was actually the establishment that was encouraging all parties to remain engaged but once it has backed down then it would be difficult to let any parleys continue.

Press Conference Fizzled

The army officers mentioned this factor in the press conference by mentioning that the country now faces serious threats of internal instability and this appears to be a warning for the PTI not to consider taking any measures that may disrupt the status quo through its long march.

Keeping in view that it was the military establishment that brought PTI to power, the open breakup between them coupled with PTI’s open rebellion against their former benefactors does not augur well for the political situation of the country.

There are many lessons to be learned from this story but then in Pakistan, no lessons are ever learned. This lack of reflection is revealed by the almost hardline positions both sides have taken with both of them professing to go on the defensive yet taking offensive action.

The establishment has started to ring up Islamabad and other sensitive installations and the PTI has gone on the long march with the regular outrageous slogans. Keeping in view the typical situation of Pakistan where the establishment has repeatedly interfered in political and civilian affairs over decades.

It is quite clear that the impact of the unusual press conference fizzled out much quicker than expected much to the surprise of even many skeptical observers. Though it is difficult to predict anything in Pakistan yet the kind of reaction the press conference expected certainly did not happen.

This may indeed be surprising for the establishment and it may not have taken such a lukewarm response into account and now it is to be seen what countermeasures it would devise to come up to cover this drawback. In all probability, things may have changed for good though it may be reiterated that nothing could be definitely predicted in Pakistan. The Weekender


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