It is necessary to assess the facts related to the death of Arshad Sharif because baseless accusations were made on institutions, the leadership and army chief, Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) Director-General Lieutenant General Babar Iftikhar said in a press conference in Rawalpindi Thursday.
He said it has to be seen what facts have been revealed so far regarding the circumstances surrounding the death of the late journalist.
In a first, Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) Director-General Lt Gen Nadeem Anjum, too, accompanied the DG ISPR in the press conference. The DGs of the Pakistan Army and the country's premier intelligence agency addressed journalist Arshad Sharif's killing in Kenya, the PTI narrative against the army, former premier Imran Khan's controversial statements and more in the explosive presser.
Arshad Sharif was a fearless journalist and the brother of a martyred soldier, the DG ISPR said, terming his death "a sad event".
Sharif was an icon of Pakistan's journalism and noted that members of the late journalist's family had served in the army, adding that he always felt the pain of martyred officers.
Lt Gen Babar Iftikhar said Sharif was a very hardworking journalist and was popular because of his reputation for investigative journalism, sharing that Sharif had held several meetings with the former prime minister [Imran Khan] and had interviewed him a number of times.
Since Arshad was an investigative journalist, he also looked into the cypher issue when it surfaced, shared the DG ISPR.
He also highlighted that the journalist had also interviewed the then-prime minister Imran Khan on the issue, adding that at the time it was claimed that he was shown the document.
"Facts linked with the cypher and Arshad Sharif’s death need to be found. So there is no ambiguity left in this regard," said the DG ISPR.
The spokesperson of the military also shared that the army chief has discussed the cypher with the PTI chief at Kamra, adding that Imran Khan had said it himself that the document "was not a big deal".
“It was surprising for us when Imran Khan in March 27 rally flashed the paper in an effort to give a narrative which was not linked with reality,” said the DG ISPR.
Lt Gen Iftikhar said that several facts regarding the cypher have surfaced, so far, which have exposed the "hollow and fabricated story". He added that the opinion of a Pakistani envoy was used by the former prime minister for his political interests.
The military spokesperson said that the ISI in a "very clear and professional way" informed the national Security Committee that they had found no evidence of any type of conspiracy against the government. He said that the NSC was briefed that it was the envoy’s personal assessment and the strategy envoy had recommended, the NSC recommended the same strategy to the Foreign Office.
"ISI’s findings related to the cypher didn’t have any evidence for any type of conspiracy,” he said, adding that all these findings are on record.
He added that the military wanted these findings to be put before the nation but they left the decision to the PTI-led government, but it was not done.
“Instead, more false news and rumours were spread to take political benefit and create a specific narrative the no-confidence motion was a part of regime change operation instead of a constitutional, political and legal affair,” said the DG ISPR.
"Pakistan’s institutions and especially the army leadership was targeted and it was linked with treason and regime change operation," said Lt Gen Iftikhar. He shared that during this time Sharif and other senior journalists were fed with a specific narrative.
In a direct jibe at PTI chair Imran Khan, Director General Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) Lt Gen Nadeem Anjum said that it is not possible that the former prime minister can meet army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa in the night and then call him a "traitor in the day".
“If the commander-in-chief is a traitor then why did you meet him in hiding? Meeting [him] is your right but it cannot be possible that you meet at night and call [him] a traitor at night,” asked the DG ISI.
The DG ISPR termed it imperative to hold transparent and impartial investigation into the killing of the senior journalist, saying that they have requested the government to form a high level inquiry commission to investigate the despicable incident.
The DG ISPR said international and forensic experts including the UN representatives should be included in the inquiry commission.
The DG ISPR said ARY Chief Executive Officer Salman Iqbal should be brought back to Pakistan and be investigated.
Pakistan’s institutions and especially the army leadership was targeted and it was linked with treason and regime change operation, said Lt Gen Iftikhar.
He shared that during this time Sharif and other senior journalists were fed with a specific narrative.
While mentioning ARY news, the DG ISPR said that during the media trial the private TV channel acted as a spin doctor in spreading a false narrative against the Pakistan Army and leadership.
“Pakistan Army was expected of political interference which is against the Constitution. The word ‘neutral’ was made an abuse,” said the DG ISPR. He added that the institution and army chief showed extreme restraint and patience despite all this.
"We made every possible effort that these politicians sit together and solve national issues but it was not possible," said the DG ISPR. He added that Sharif, social media activists and others spoke about the cypher and very “serious” things were said about it.
The army spokesman emphasised that we should wait for the report of the inquiry commission. "It will not be appropriate to level any allegations without final report of the inquiry commission," he said.
He said the army had no information about the life threat to Arshad Sharif in Pakistan.
He said the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government had issued a threat letter which stated that a terrorist group is looking to target Sharif. In this regard, no information was shared with the institutions as to who provided them this information, he said.
He added that there were reports that Arshad Sharif did not want to leave the country but he kept being reminded that he was facing a threat to his life. He said nobody forced the senior journalist to leave Dubai at a government level, questioning as to who exactly forced him to leave Dubai.
The Lieutenant General regretted the smear campaign unleashed against Pakistan Army by certain elements on the social media following the murder of Sharif. He said it should be seen as to who is trying to take benefit from the death of the journalist.
The DG ISPR said the Kenyan government has admitted its mistake but it should be seen whether it was the incident of mistaken identity or targeted killing. He said there are several questions which need to be answered in this case.
"We are a dignified and sovereign nation," he continued, adding that the armed forces have rendered sacrifices in the war on terrorism and the nation should have full confidence and trust on this institution. He said the army is the force of this nation and cannot be traitors and conspirators.
To a question about the PTI's upcoming long march, the DG ISPR said that protesting is a democratic right. He said this should not worry anybody as Pakistan faces no threat from it.
He categorically stated that nobody will be allowed to destabilise Pakistan.
The DG ISI said Pakistan Army will extend help to the government to control the situation if it was called under Article 245.
Lieutenant General Babar Iftikhar said all international borders and every inch of Pakistan are secured. He said we are fully cognisant of the threats and have the answer to them.
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