An Open Letter To Pakistan Army Chief Gen. Asim Munir – OpEd


Esteemed General Munir Sahib,

Heartiest congratulations for promptly delivering on your promise of taking “the fight back to the enemy” by taking on arch rival and former Prime Minister Imran Khan’s frontal attack on you and your ilk in an extremely ingenious manner. Your media wing Inter Services Public Relations [ISPR] too deserves due appreciation for stoutly continuing to defend the indefensible and its attempting to convert the serious threat from PTI into an opportunity for Rawalpindi.

May 9 saw irate mobs attacking several military installations and ransacking ‘Jinnah House’ in Lahore, which is the official residence of a three-star General of Pakistan army commanding the Lahore corps. Thus, ISPR’s declaration that “May 9 will be remembered as a dark chapter” is justified.  However, isn’t the abduction of the PTI chief by Rangers from within Islamabad High Court [IHC] premises earlier on the same day an equally ‘dark chapter’?

You would obviously like to give this question a pass, and if compelled to answer, your most probable reply would be that since Khan’s arrest was ordered by the National Accountability Bureau [NAB], the Pakistan army had no role in this whole episode. While this explanation may pass muster on grounds of technicality, it certainly lacks credibility on several counts.

Firstly, the PTI chief had been alleging that a high ranking Pakistan army officer serving in the army’s spy agency Inter-Services Intelligence [ISI] was involved in two attempts to assassinate him. However, it was only on May 8 that Khan did the unexpected by mentioning this two-star army General by name while delivering a speech without providing any evidence in support of this accusation, which was definitely uncalled for.

So, ISPR was well within its right to hit back and outrightly trash the PTI chief’s assertion as “highly irresponsible and baseless allegations.” It rightly advised him to “make a recourse to legal avenues and stop making false allegations” [sic] and this was a good enough rebuttal that squarely put the ball in PTI’s court.

However, what’s really intriguing is that while it so sagaciously counseled Khan to go to court instead of leveling accusations, ISPR surprisingly didn’t follow its own advice, even though it had warned [threatened?] the PTI chief, that the army reserved the right to initiate legal action against what it referred to as  “false and malafide statements and propaganda.”

Au contraire, ISPR chose to match Khan’s puerile tirade with its own vitriolic rhetoric by trying to make out a damning case against Khan. Its statement reads, “This has been a consistent pattern for [the] last one year wherein military and intelligence agencies officials are targeted with insinuations and sensational propaganda for the furtherance of political objectives.”

So, if the Pakistan army is really apolitical [as your predecessor Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa claimed in his farewell address], then would you kindly clarify as to why ISPR continues to make politically flavoured statements? Was this done as some sort of a ‘preparatory bombardment’ aimed at demonising the PTI chief so that public reaction to his pre-planned arrest by NAB the very next day would be muted?

Two, had the PTI chief gone underground or was planning to flee the country, then his immediate arrest was justified. However, when Khan was already inside IHC in connection with the hearing of another case, why were his captors in such a tearing hurry to prevent him from attending a scheduled court proceeding by arresting him? Could it be that by naming the ISI General supposedly involved in orchestrating his assassination, Khan crossed the Rubicon and an enraged Rawalpindi egged NAB to arrest him?

The Rangers function under the Interior Ministry, but since its officer cadre is provided by the Pakistan army, the public perceives them as military force. The decision to employ Rangers for arresting the PTI chief may be in order. However, given the existing acrimony between the PTI chief and Rawalpindi, even elementary reckoning would have thrown up the potential danger that use of Rangers could cause the situation to spiral out of control.

Being a disciplined organisation led by army officers, for the Rangers to force their way into court premises by breaking window glasses and arresting the PTI chief after roughing up his advocate and private security staff, is shocking. So, isn’t the uncouth manner in which the PTI chief was arrested by Rangers as much a “black chapter” as incensed mobs of irate civilians attacking army installations and other military symbols?

Lastly, by blaming PTI for being able to do “what the eternal enemy of the country [India] could not do for 75 years,” ISPR is just trying to absolve Rawalpindi. There are no two views that while Khan’s arrest may have acted as the trigger, it’s Rawalpindi’s highhandedness and failures on all fronts that has generated large scale resentment amongst the people

If all was indeed hunky dory and Pakistan’s armed forces popularity was even a fraction of what it so proudly claims, then where was the need to throttle people’s constitutional right to freedom of speech by amending Pakistan Penal Code to criminalise criticism of the armed forces? The harsh reality is that what happened in Pakistan on May 9, though very unfortunate, was waiting to happen!

Yours etc,

Nilesh Kunwar

Nilesh Kunwar is a retired Indian Army Officer who has served in Jammu & Kashmir, Assam, Nagaland and Manipur. He is a ‘Kashmir-Watcher,’ and now after retirement is pursuing his favorite hobby of writing for newspapers, journals and think tanks.

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