Mysterious banners urging Chief of Army Staff General Raheel Sharif to contest the general elections in 2018 were spotted in Rawalpindi on Saturday, a few weeks ahead of the military chief’s last day on duty.
In bold letters, the banners call for ‘no extension but reduction’ — asking for reduction from two to one year the minimum duration before a retired government servant can enter politics as well as urging General Raheel to enter the political arena and contest national elections in 2018.
The banners call on the government and the opposition to bring to an end “their divisive politics”. They also call on the general to enter politics in the hopes that “ties between the country’s civil and military leadership can harmonise”.
The banners say there was hope that by taking part in the elections, [General] Raheel’s party “will secure majority votes and he will be elected prime minister, leading the country on the path to becoming a success”.
The posters name a Sheikh Rasheed Amjad Ali, member of a group called the Awami Monitoring Cell (Rawalpindi), as the man who has organised the campaign.
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Previously, banners addressing General Raheel had popped up in cities across the country urging the COAS to ‘stay on.’
In July, posters were seen in Islamabad, Lahore, Karachi and several other major cities, urging the general to impose martial law and form a government of technocrats.
Those banners were put up by the little-known political party of Punjab Move on Pakistan and unlike the party’s earlier campaign requesting the army chief to reconsider his retirement plan due in November the message in July was quite ominous.
A banner hanging at a traffic intersection on the thoroughfare between Chief Minister House and the Rangers headquarters in Karachi read: Janay ki baatain hui puraani, Khuda k liye ab ajao (Talks of leaving are now old; for God’s sake now come).
In response to the July posters, Director General of Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) Lt Gen Asim Bajwa had tweeted saying that the Pakistan Army or any of its affiliated organisations had no connection to the banners.