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PR Editorials

The Asif Ghafoor Press Briefing: What he spoke, what he meant and what he didn’t


Photo: The News


On 5 October 2017, Maj Gen Asif Ghafoor, the Director General of the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) in Pakistan addressed the media on a series of issues. The press briefing took place in the background of recent statement by Nawaz Sharif on not learning from the fall of Dhaka, the Rangers fiasco in not allowing the Interior Minister to enter into a court premises and their subsequent withdrawal from Parliament, meeting of Corps Commander and the statement by an US Official about the American concerns on the stability of government in Pakistan.

Maj Gen Ghafoor was quoted to have stated that there is no clash between the state institutions and the army is subordinate to the Constitution of Pakistan. He denied that the army was behind the accountability process (leading to the disqualification of the Nawaz Sharif) and refuted that the military is looking for a martial rule. According to him: “We obeyed the orders of Supreme Court and our two representatives became part of the JIT. The army did not produce anything during the process. It is our stand that the process should be carried out by those who have the domain to do so.”

On Sharif’s reference to not learning from the fall of Dhaka, he was quoted to have said: “So much has happened over the last 70 years… it is time to move beyond the past.” Clearly, the military is uncomfortable to look back. Worse to learn from the past.

Given the tension between the PML-N and the military, civil-military equation has assumed importance in the public debate in Pakistan. The military perhaps wants to totally brush off any debate when Ghafoor said: “these are things that should not even be spoken of.” His response to the absence of any statement after the Corps Commanders meeting was: “Silence is also expression, right?”.

The military in fact has been silent on the entire accountability process. Is that also an expression? If it is, what does that mean?

From an Indo-Pak perspective, what he said on Cross-LoC firings was important: “If they fired one bullet, our troops will respond with five…Unlike India, we cannot fire indiscriminately, as there are Kashmiri brothers on the other side, so when there are casualties on that side, it is soldiers and infrastructure. But war is not the solution.” 

Is it what we see along the LoC – that there are five bullets from Pakistan for one from India and those five are not indiscriminate, because they are worried about the Kashmiri brothers? Or is the ISPR statement is only for a Pakistani audience?