On Friday, Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal’s public relations officer issued a statement saying the military should stop commenting on the country’s economic affairs. The Director General of Interservice Public Relations (DGISPR), Major General Asif Ghafoor, was particularly challenged because of his recent interview on a private television channel. In this interview, he remarked on the country’s economic situation. The Chief of Army Staff (COAS) also addressed the business community in Karachi on Wednesday, saying that economic stability is closely linked to the security situation in the country.
Objectively, and contrary to what Mr. Ahsan Iqbal asserts, the comments on the economy are not wrong – the country’s macroeconomic situation is troubled to say the least. Furthermore, it is also true that the military plays a vital role in securing and facilitating economic ventures.
However, service members who make these comments, especially at public events, are problematic.
Due to recent instability in the government structure, experts speculated about increasing control of the military and rising tensions with the Pakistani Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) government. Amid all these assertions, DG Rangers clarified the situation by emphasizing the army’s promise to uphold the country’s democratic principles. He also, as a representative of the institution, pledged support to the civil government to ensure the proper functioning of the system.
However, the army seems to be ignoring its own promises and continuing to interfere in areas that are not under its authority. Ahsan Iqbal is right to point out that the economy and its policies are not the purview of the military. It falls under the jurisdiction of the Minister of Finance and, basically, of the government. The constitution does not allow the military to get involved in political affairs and policy issues.
Moreover, they do not realize that their continuous remarks on civil issues are picked up by foreign publications and news channels. They then present this as a signal of growing discord in the Pakistani state and some have even hinted at a ‘soft coup’. The establishment has repeatedly chastised the government for “portraying a negative image” – now their comments do the same.
The contribution of the military is invaluable. However, if they have concerns, they should be conveyed to the government and not to the public. Public platforms cannot be used in this way; they inevitably give the debates a political tone.