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DG ISI addresses press conference first time in Pakistan’s history

DG ISI Lt Gen Nadeem - who keeps a low profile and refrains from making public appearances - stated that the constant targeting of the Army forced him to make a public statement.

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In a major development, DG ISI Lt. Gen Nadeem and DG ISPR  Lt. Gen Babur Iftikhar recently held a press conference to address the killing of senior journalist Arshad Sharif. This is the first time in Pakistan’s history that the head of the country’s spy agency has directly addressed the media.

During the press conference, DG ISPR termed Arshad Sharif’s death an unfortunate incident and called him an icon of journalism in Pakistan. Speaking on the cypher issue, Lt Gen Babar Iftikhar said that the ISPR informed the National Security Committee (NSC) that no proof was found regarding the conspiracy against the Imran Khan-led PTI government.

“Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) also did not find any evidence regarding the conspiracy…It was surprising for us when on March 27 a piece of paper was waved by former PM in a public rally,” he added. This is an important statement as Imran Khan has claimed that a foreign conspiracy was hatched that led to his ouster. Since then, the “foreign conspiracy” has become the centre of Imran Khan’s political narrative.

Read more: Will “expose” those involved in “foreign conspiracy”: Imran Khan

DG ISPR also said that journalists were fed a particular narrative and an attempt was made to defame Pakistan and the country’s institutions across the world. Interestingly, DG ISPR also named Arshad Sharif as one of the journalists who made strong comments against the army. However, DG ISPR added that “we did not have any negative sentiments about him and we don’t have such feelings now”.

COAS was offered an indefinite extension: DG ISI

DG ISI Lt Gen Nadeem – who keeps a low profile and refrains from making public appearances – stated that the constant targetting of the Army forced him to make a public statement.

“As chief of this agency, I cannot remain silent when they [Army officers] are targeted for no reason,” DG ISI said while adding that the nation had given him the responsibility to take secrets to the grave. “But when needed and when necessary, I will bring those facts to light”.

Interestingly, DG ISI Lt, Gen Nadeem made the revelation that in March, Gen Bajwa was given a “lucrative offer” for an extension in his tenure.

“It was made in front of me. He rejected it because he wanted the institutions to move forward from a controversial role to a constitutional role,” DG ISI said. He also said that the offer was made when the no-confidence motion was at its peak.

Read more: COAS Bajwa confirms retirement in five weeks

Pertinent to mention that while Lt. Gen Nadeem did not directly take Imran Khan’s name, he made the remarks based on the timeline when Imran Khan’s government was in power.

“If you see him as a traitor, then why do you meet him through the back door? […] Don’t do this where you 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,” Lt Gen Nadeem said.

Arshad Sharif forced to leave Pakistan

During the press conference, the DG ISPR revealed that the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government on August 5 issued a threat letter that stated that a Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) was looking to target Sharif.

He further said that the KP government shared no information with institutions regarding the threat. “In this regard, no info was shared with the institutions who provided them the information.”

Read more: Arshad Sharif: A symbol of the long march – Lt Gen (retd) Tariq Khan

Lt Gen Babar Iftikhar said that it looks like the threat alert was issued with the aim to force Sharif to leave the country, Gen Iftikhar said, adding that Sharif did not want to leave Pakistan and was in contact with the establishment.

Furthermore, talking about Arshad Sharif in the press conference, DG ISI also praised Arshad Sharif as a competent, hardworking, and able journalist.