ISLAMABAD: Director General (DG) Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) Lt-Gen Babar Iftikhar said on Thursday that ARY News Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Salman Iqbal should be brought back to the country to interrogate him about the murder of senior journalist Arshad Sharif in Kenya.
“In this case, the name of Salman Iqbal surfaced time and again; therefore, he should be brought back and investigated in connection with the killing of Arshad Sharif,” Lt-Gen Babar Iftikhar said while addressing a press conference here.
As an extraordinary gesture, Director General (DG) Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) Lt-Gen Nadeem Ahmed Anjum also joined the briefing after a while to speak in defence of the institution in the wake of a smear campaign underway on the social media currently.
He said soon after the death of Arshad Sharif, the social media campaign pointed fingers at the Pakistan Army, saying that it would also have to be seen as to who wanted to take benefit of that nefarious agenda.
He said that following an investigation from Senior Vice President ARY Ammad Yousuf on August 9 with regard to Shahbaz Gill’s highly controversial statement against the Pakistan Army, it was revealed that ARY CEO Salman Iqbal had directed him (Ammad) that Arshad should be convinced to leave the country at the earliest.
In response, he said Ammad Yousuf told Salman Iqbal that Arshad Sharif would be sent to the UAE from the Peshawar Airport. Air ticket for the anchorperson was booked in Karachi by a travel agent, Fazal-e-Rabbi, on payment of Rs5 lakh by Assistant Manager Planning & Administration Imran. Later, Salman Iqbal was informed that the anchorperson had left for Dubai.
While leaving the country, Arshad Sharif was given full protocol by the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa government at the airport. “None of the federal government’s institutions including the FIA attempted to stop Arshad Sharif at the airport,” he said.
He also raised questions as to who forced Arshad Sharif to leave Dubai, who arranged his stay in Kenya, who told him that he was safe in Kenya, and that his life was in danger in Pakistan. “Kenya is not the only country which gives visa-free entry to Pakistanis, and there are 34 other such countries also,” he said.
He also questioned as to what was the link of Arshad with Waqar Ahmed and Khurram Ahmed, who hosted him in Kenya, adding that who was the first person who sent the news of death of Arshad Sharif when he was killed in a far-flung place in that country.
To a question, the DG ISPR said there were connections between Salman Iqbal, Ammad Yousuf, Khurram Ahmed and Waqar Ahmed, but the facts would be made public after establishing those connections in a proper way. “Connecting dots will take some time,” he added.
He said that international forensic experts, investigators even those under the umbrella of United Nations, should be made a part of inquiry commission for which the Pakistan Army had requested the federal government.
The military spokesman said instead of making findings of the ISI public, the institution of Pakistan Army and its leadership was linked to the regime change operation and that somebody was a traitor. “This was the time when such narrative was fed to Arshad Sharif and other senior journalists on cipher and an attempt was made to create hatred among personnel of Pak Army and its leadership.”
The DG ISPR said that every effort was made to blot the image of institutions and their leadership on cipher issue and in this regard it was the ARY channel which played the role of a spin doctor for promoting a fake and fraudulent narrative against the Pakistan Army.
He said a threat alert was issued by the KP government on August 5 on directives of chief minister, which stated that Arshad Sharif was facing life threats and the TTP people at a meeting had decided to target him in Rawalpindi or its surroundings.
However, the military spokesman said the threat alert was not shared with any security agencies, which means that it was done under a planning and its objective was to convince Arshad to leave the country. “There are also reports that Arshad did not want to leave the country but he was told again and again that he was facing life threats,” he said.
To a question about India’s involvement in Arshad’s killing, the DG ISPR said there was big possibility of the third party’s involvement and involvement of hostile agencies of enemy. “Third party’s involvement can be there and more facts will come forth after reports of committee and judicial commission,” he said.
Lt-Gen Babar Iftikhar told the media to have trust in institutions of Pakistan. “This is your Army and nobody wants to go home with allegations of traitor after serving the institution for 35 years,” he said. He said they could be weak as human beings, but could not be traitor at all and everybody should be aware of the fact because army was nothing without support of people.
He said as an institution, they had never disappointed the nation and never did so in the past, saying it was high time to forge discipline and unity in the nation. “We are the force of this nation and cannot be conspirators or traitors,” he added.
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