The chief of Pakistan’s spy agency ISI has issued strict orders to all commanders to stay away from politics following directives from Army chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa to offset a smear campaign against the military by ousted prime minister Imran Khan’s party, according to a media report on Tuesday.
Lieutenant General Nadeem Anjum, Director General (DG) of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), personally issued the instructions to his subordinates, The Express Tribune newspaper reported.
“They have been told in the strictest terms to stay away from politics and avoid any such activity,” the report quoted a source as saying.
The spymaster further said that there would be zero-tolerance for violations and any intelligence official found violating the directives would have no place in the premier agency.
The development came a day after Army chief Bajwa directed his top commanders and key officers – including those from the Inter-Services Intelligence – to stay away from politics after leaders of ousted prime minister Khan-led party alleged that some officials of the country’s intelligence agency were trying to “manipulate” the upcoming by-elections in Punjab.
Pakistan Army, which has ruled the coup-prone country for more than half of its 73-plus years of existence, has hitherto wielded considerable power in the matters of security and foreign policy.
Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party has been leading a vicious campaign against the security establishment since the toppling of its government in April this year through a no-confidence motion, according to the paper.
Khan, the 69-year-old cricketer-turned-politician, claims his ouster was a conspiracy orchestrated and bankrolled by the US with the help of local players over his pursuance of an independent foreign policy.
Khan is the only Pakistani prime minister to be ousted in a no-confidence motion in Parliament. He was replaced by Shehbaz Sharif of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) Khan and his party blamed the military and have mounted a vociferous campaign – especially on social media – to directly point the finger at some senior officials.
The party has now started peddling the narrative that the security establishment has been engaged in “political engineering” to manipulate the upcoming by-elections in favour of the PML-N and its coalition partners, the report said.
The by-polls on the 20 vacant seats of the Punjab Assembly will be held on July 17.
Senior PTI leader Yasmin Rashid alleged at a recent press conference, without providing any evidence, that the ISI sector commander, Lahore, Brigadier Rashid was involved in political manipulation against the PTI.
Former foreign minister and Deputy Chairman of PTI Shah Mehmood Qureshi also alleged that he was defeated in Punjab Assembly elections through a conspiracy.
The upcoming by-elections in Punjab are crucial because whichever party wins more seats will form the government in the province.
The Supreme Court has already ordered that the provincial assembly elect a new chief minister on July 22 after the by-polls because the PTI claims the incumbent chief minister Hamza Shehbaz doesn’t command the majority, according to The Express Tribune.