On a day when slain Pakistani journalist and anchor Arshad Sharif, who was brutally killed in a shootout in Kenya allegedly in a case of mistaken identity (as per the Kenyan police authorities), was being laid to rest, the explosive joint press conference by DGISPR Major General Babar Iftikhar and DGISI Lieutenant General Nadeem Ahmed Anjum sent shockwaves to former Prime Minister Imran Khan, his narrative of a conspiracy that led to regime change in the country, and put serious questions over Imran Khan, a leading news channel’s owner Salman Iqbal and other elements that led to the killing of Arshad Sharif.
Arshad Sharif’s murder
The media talk was focused on talking about the tragic murder of Arshad Sharif in Kenya and the circumstances surrounding it.
“This press conference is being held in the context of presenting facts, so that facts, fiction and opinion can be differentiated. Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif has been specifically informed about the sensitivity of the press conference,” said DGISPR Babar Iftikhar.
Talking more into the key pointers related to the journalist’s murder, Iftikhar said that Arshad Sharif was among many of those journalists who were fed with a propaganda based narrative built by Imran Khan in the wake of the cypher, which allegedly led to the regime change conspiracy in the country.
The DGISPR also stated that Arshad Sharif’s employer and prominent news channel ARY News played the role of a spin doctor in targeting the army, adding that its CEO Salman Iqbal should be brought back to Pakistan and investigated.
It was also revealed that the threat letter and alert that was issued by the Khyber Pukhtunkhwa (KP) government was fake, as the DGISPR confirmed that the intelligence agencies had no information of any such threat to Arshad Sharif.
“The threat letter by Khyber Pukhtunkhwa government was issued as part of the plan to create grounds to compel Arshad to leave Pakistan. Arshad did not want to leave Pakistan,” said Iftikhar.
“ARY CEO Salman Iqbal then asked for immediate arrangements for Arshad Sharif’s exit from Pakistan and he was given KP government’s protocol to fly from the Peshawar airport. His plane ticket was also booked and paid by ARY Digital,” added the DGISPR.
The DGISPR and the DGISI confirmed that no one forced Arshad Sharif to leave Pakistan as Sharif did not face any threat in the country.
The statements from the DGISPR and the DGISI can be seen as parallel to the recent claim by Imran Khan that he was the one who asked Arshad Sharif to leave Pakistan after he was informed of imminent threats form TTP (Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan) splinter groups, which, as per the ‘threat letter’, wanted to assassinate him.
It is also important to note that while Arshad Sharif was in Kenya since September, he was in contact with or either staying with two persons — Khurram Ahmed and Waqar Ahmed.
It was reported that Khurram Ahmed was driving the vehicle, which was sprayed with bullets by the Kenyan police, two of which hit Arshad in the head and the back. However, the driver remained unharmed. The first call that Khurram made after Arshad was shot was to ARY CEO Salman Iqbal, and not to his family or any other journalist. The farm house that Arshad was going to in Kenya is also owned by Salman Iqbal, which has raised even more questions over the contacts and connections related to Arshad’s killing.
The DGISPR and the DGISI emphasised that a thorough investigation should be conducted into the matter, and if a UN body, or an international independent body, is to be involved in it, it should be done on priority.
DGISI & DGISPR demolish Imran’s narrative
Demolishing former Prime Minister Imran Khan’s narrative that his government was ousted from power through a conspiracy, revealed through the cypher and implemented by his opposition political parties along with the military establishment in what he terms as a regime change, the DGISPR said the reality of the cypher and the March 27 narrative built through it was “far from reality” and in fact poles apart.
Babar Iftikhar said that the intelligence agencies and the military had already made it abundantly clear that there was no proof of a conspiracy in the cypher, a fact that was conveyed to the government clearly during the National Security Council (NSC) meeting.
However, he added that a different narrative was built in the name of regime change and its propaganda tools became journalists and social media influencers.
DGISI Nadeem Ahmed Anjum said that he was compelled and forced to come and do a joint press conference as “lies continued to be spread and kept repeating themselves, which were being accepted by majority of the youth of the country”.
“I also came today because opting to remain silent for long is not the right option when lies are becoming more vocal. Besides, it is necessary to determine the factors due to which a particular narrative is being built and people are being misled,” he said.
“Chief of Army staff (COAS) General Qamar Jawed Bajwa was also targeted and faced criticism. And attempts were made to create a divide in the society,” the DGISI added.
Talking about how Imran Khan waved a piece of paper during the March 27 public rally in Islamabad, Iftikhar said, “It was surprising for us when on March 27 a piece of paper was waved and an attempt was made to build a narrative that was far from reality.
“Several facts had come to light regarding the cypher revealing the baseless and unfounded narrative surrounding it. The Army was expected to intervene in domestic politics. The word neutral and apolitical was turned into an abuse. To all this baseless narrative, the Army chief and the institution showed restraint and we tried our best that politicians sit together to resolve their issues.”
Anjum said the nation has given him the responsibility to take secrets to the grave.
“But when needed and when necessary, I will bring those facts to light. Last year, the establishment decided that it would restrict itself to its constitutional role… The Army had an intense discussion and we reached the conclusion that the country’s benefit lies in us restricting ourselves to our constitutional role and remaining out of politics,” the DGISI said.
He said that in March, there was “a lot of pressure” but the institution and the Army chief decided to limit the military to its constitutional role.
The DGISI also slammed Imran Khan for openly targeting the military establishment in the day while meeting the same institution’s personnel during the night with a wish list of things he intended to see be done in order to bring him back into power.
“You (Imran Khan) meet quietly at night through the back door and express your unconstitutional wishes, but call the Army chief a traitor in broad daylight. That’s a big contradiction between your words and your actions,” Anjum said.
Anjum also said that Imran Khan had offered COAS Bajwa an unlimited extension in office in March, when the no-confidence motion was at its peak and the opposition parties were ganging up against Khan to oust his government from power.
“The offer was made because the no-confidence motion was at its peak,” he said.
The unprecedented and explosive press conference has opened up a new Pandora’s Box that would be a massive blow to Imran Khan’s upcoming long march, his narrative of regime change and his anti-establishment position.
In addition, the press conference directly hinted at Imran Khan and his KP government of being involved in the murder of Arshad Sharif, which in itself is a massive damage to Khan and will have an impact on his public support for the long march at large.
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