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Imran Khan directs party leaders to ensure no criticism of Pakistan Army: Report

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Islamabad, Dec 02: Former Pakistan prime minister and chief of Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf Imran Khan has directed party leaders and social media team to ensure that there is no criticism of the Army and its new chief General Asim Munir, a media report said on Friday.

General Munir on November 24 replaced General Qamar Javed Bajwa, who retired after serving two consecutive three-year terms as the Army chief in the coup-prone country, where the military wields considerable power in matters of security and foreign policy, as reported by news agency PTI.

Imran Khan

Lt Gen Sahir Shamshad Mirza was also picked as the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee (CJCSC). In a Whatsapp message to the group of party leaders and PTI social media managers, Khan directed: "Please ensure there is no criticism of the new Chief of Army Staff", The News International newspaper reported.

The paper said that the direction by Khan is a clear sign of the party's effort to rebuild troubled relationships with the military establishment.

The party source said that following the appointment of General Munir, Khan also does not want any reflection of what had happened between him and the new Army chief during his tenure as prime minister.

When approached, PTI senior leader Fawad Chaudhry did not confirm or deny Khan's latest direction to his leaders and social media team but said that the party's policy was not to have a confrontation with the institution.

Chaudhry explained that in the past, the PTI had issues with certain individuals and their policies. ''We never had any problem with the Army as an institution which, he said, was vital for the security and defence of Pakistan,'' he said.

Earlier, Khan in a tweet congratulated General Mirza as the new CJCSC and General Munir as the new Chief of Army Staff.

Khan hoped: "The new military leadership will work to end the prevailing trust deficit that has built up in the last 8 months between the nation and the state. Strength of the State is deprived of its people".

In the same tweet, he shared Muhammad Ali Jinnah's quote: "Do not forget that the armed forces are the servants of the people and you do not make national policy; it is we, the civilians, who decide these issues and it is your duty to carry out these tasks with which you are entrusted." The paper further reported that following the appointment of the new Army Chief, Khan and the PTI made a major policy shift from what the former prime minister and his party leaders as well as the social media team have been propagating for the last eight months.

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Ever since his ouster as the prime minister in April, Khan severely attacked the military establishment and held it responsible for the removal of his government.

He also attacked the neutrality of the institution and repeatedly urged the military establishment under former Army Chief Gen (retd) Qamar Javed Bajwa to remove the present government and pave the way for general elections.

During all these months, the social media of the PTI ran innumerable campaigns targeting the military establishment, Army's top command.

Abusive language has also been used in these campaigns. Some PTI leaders also used indecent language against the military establishment and its key players.

According to sources, Khan initially had reservations about the appointment of General Munir as Army chief but later he changed his policy and said that he would have no objection no matter who was appointed as the COAS.

During his premiership, Khan had prematurely removed Munir as chief of ISI when the latter reportedly had informed the prime minister about the alleged corrupt practices of some people close to Khan, according to the paper.

(with PTI inputs)

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