ISLAMBAD: The Army has taken a "strong exception" to "intensified and deliberate attempts" to drag its name into the country's ongoing political discourse by "some political leaders, journalists and analysts", according to a press release issued by the Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR) on Sunday.
The military's media wing noted that attempts to involve the armed forces and its senior leadership in the political discourse were "manifest through direct, insinuated or nuanced references made by some political leaders, few journalists and analysts on public forums and various communication platforms, including social media".
"This practice of unsubstantiated, defamatory and provocative statements/remarks is extremely damaging," the ISPR said.
It added that the military took strong exception to such "unlawful and unethical practices" and expected everyone to abide by the law and keep the armed forces out of political discourse in the "best interest of the country".
The ISPR statement did not specify which incident or incidents it was referring to. However, its statement came hours after former prime minister and PTI Chairman Imran Khan, during a rally in Abbottabad, railed against the concept of neutrality, saying that God hadn't permitted human beings to remain neutral when the time comes to stand up for justice and support the good.
"God will ask you if you struggled against an imported government. You wont be able to say [and make the excuse that] you were neutral," he said.
Imran had made similar remarks in March, claiming that only animals can stay neutral and that humans either side with good or evil. That statement was made a day after the military’s spokesperson had categorically stated that the army had nothing to do with politics and called for avoiding unnecessary discussion and speculation about the army’s alleged involvement in political affairs.
On Friday, PML-N Vice President Maryam Nawaz, while addressing a rally in Fateh Jang, had criticised former intelligence chief and Peshawar Corps Commander Lt Gen Faiz Hameed.
Referring to Imran's recent podcast appearance where he said the intelligence chief was the "eyes and ears" of the government, Maryam had said: "We know that he wasn't your eyes and ears [rather] he was your hands through which you throttled your political opponents."
According to a report, the ‘Imported Hukoomat Namanzur’ (imported government unacceptable) hashtag in Urdu alone generated a volume of 17 million tweets, while one anti-army hashtag generated over 69,000 tweets and a similar one over 410,000 tweets in the past few days.
The Federal Investigation Agency had also launched a crackdown against those allegedly involved in running these online campaigns and was making arrests.
The watchdog has also initiated an inquiry against Bol anchorperson Sami Ibrahim for allegedly transmitting "anti-state" videos and statements on various social media platforms, including regarding the army.
Meanwhile, Punjab Governor Omar Sarfraz Cheema has sought the army’s intervention to lead the province out of the crises plaguing it for months despite the armed forces repeatedly refusing to be pushed into the country’s perpetual political quagmire.
The governor wrote a letter to Chief of Army Staff Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa, requesting him to play a defining role in the current chaotic times, as he was of the opinion that the constitutional crisis-ridden Punjab had been held hostage.
Last month, senior retired army officials termed audio clips attributed to them, in which statements were given against the Pakistan Army and its leadership, "fake" and a "conspiracy against the Pakistan Army".
The clarifications from the retired army officials had come two days after the country's military leadership took notice of an ongoing "propaganda campaign" against the army on social media and endorsed the position taken by the army's leadership on the political crisis in the country that climaxed with ex-premier Imran Khan’s ouster.
The military came under criticism last month, especially in the wake of Imran's ouster through a successful vote of no-confidence. Trends against the armed forces and its leadership saw intense activity on social media platforms such as Twitter.