Gen Bajwa, former Prime Minister Imran and Former ISI Chief during a meet

Islamabad: Pakistan’s Chief of the Army Staff (COAS) General Qamar Javed Bajwa has directed the country’s commanders and other key officers, including those associated with the ISI, to stay away from politics and avoid interacting with politicians.

These directions have been given after reports said that Pakistan military establishment was involved in political engineering to manipulate the upcoming by-elections in Punjab to the disadvantage of PTI, The News International newspaper reported.

Former Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan also claimed that some of his candidates have complained to him of receiving telephone calls from unknown numbers. The PTI chief also said that his party leaders and workers were being pressurised to engineer the by-elections.

According to The News, the country’s defence sources lament over these allegations and disclosed that the ISI sector commander, Lahore, who is being maligned by the PTI leaders, is not even in Lahore for over a fortnight in connection with some of his professional work in Islamabad.

Earlier, Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) were strictly directed to stay away from politics. The ISI DG Lt Gen had directed officials of the intelligence agency that no interference into politics and political matters would be tolerated.

Pakistan media reports said the unauthorized political role of the agency has dented the reputation of the ISI. However, the incumbent ISI DG is said to have decided to keep the institution away from politics to stay away from unnecessary controversies.

Last month, the Pakistan military said it does not wish to provide security for upcoming polling exercises in the country, unlike the 2018 general elections.

However, the military assured its availability in case, a need arises during electioneering, the Dawn newspaper reported.

“The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) chief has recently sent a letter to the army chief seeking deployment of army troops for security [of the electoral process],” ECP Secretary Omar Hamid Khan told reporters ahead of the upcoming by-election in Karachi’s NA-245.

Hamid Khan said military personnel will remain in the third-tier of the security ring and will be available for ‘quick response’

He clarified that troops would not be deployed at polling stations, though the paramilitary Rangers force would “stay close to the polling stations”.

Back in 2018, the ECP had granted broad judicial powers to the armed forces at polling stations.

This rare move that had attracted serious criticism from human rights groups, Dawn reported.

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