Army fires first ‘warning shot’ over undue criticism

* COAS says while the country is faced with multiple internal and external challenges, army upholds the sanctity of all institutions and will resolutely preserve its own dignity

ISLAMABAD: In an apparent reaction to the criticism of the military establishment by several sections of society, Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Raheel Sharif stated on Monday that the military would “resolutely preserve its own dignity and institutional pride”.
The army chief termed as “undue” criticism of the army. “While our country is faced with multiple internal and external challenges, Pakistan Army upholds the sanctity of all institutions and will resolutely preserve its own dignity and institutional pride,” a statement from the military’s mouthpiece Inter-Services Public Relations quoted General Raheel Sharif as having said on Monday following his visit to the headquarters of Special Services Group (SSG), the military’s commando wing, at Ghazi Base in Tarbela. 
The ISPR said the COAS was responding to the “concerns of soldiers on undue criticism of the institution in recent days”. The statement comes conspicuously at a time when the reports about the possible exit from the country of former military dictator Pervez Musharraf are making headlines on a daily basis. Fingers are being pointed at the role of military bosses in this regard, who are said to be instrumental in paving the grounds for the ex-general’s expected flight to an Arab state in the days to come. 
A deal to this effect, the reports suggest, has been finalised between the incumbent government and the oil-rich Arab country that would allow the former military man to live a quiet and low-profile life in the said state, detached from politics, for the time being at least. Moreover, Musharraf’s recent indictment in the special court trying him for high treason is seen by many as a novel “miracle” in Pakistan considering the historical might and the power the military has enjoyed over the decades by means of unconstitutionally ruling the country four different times. 
Majority of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s kitchen cabinet members are said to be in favour of getting rid of what they call “un-necessary irritant” in Musharraf’s case and have advised the premier to instead focus on economy and terrorism issues facing the country. Federal Minister Khawaja Saad Rafiq’s outburst against Musharraf on Wednesday and his rejection of any deal to allow the former military ruler a safe passage abroad was however being considered as a “smoke screen” by the government insiders. Key federal ministers are however not ready to reject out rightly chances of Musharraf’s exit from the country.
Backdoor interactions with the government gurus privy to the situation, including one of the influential federal ministers, shows that the government did not wait for a second thought, soon before the ex-general was indicted by the special court in the high treason charges, to convey to the men in khakis that Prime Minister Nawaz and his men were not opposed anymore to Musharraf’s exit from Pakistan. A “conducive” judiciary’s newly found role was cited as a supporting factor in this regard. 
The ISPR media release said, the COAS paid “glowing tributes to the sacrifices of the SSG soldiers and officers, and acknowledged their tremendous success while fighting against terrorists. Pakistan Army takes pride in our brave and battle-hardened Special Services Group who are ranked among the top elite forces of the world.” The army chief praised the SSG men. “Given the specialised nature of their employment in the most sensitive, complex and challenging environment – Pakistan Army never has and never will shy away from rendering any sacrifice in ensuring a formidable defence and security of the motherland.” 
Raheel Sharif said the military draws its strength from national support, with its characteristic coherence and resilience. “Pakistan Army has contributed immensely towards national security and nation building and will continue to deliver on its mission.”

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