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Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) leader Asad Umar rejected on Saturday “any attempt to equate criticism of individuals with criticism of the institution.

The former minister’s remarks came in response to the military’s media wing issuing a statement following deposed prime minister Imran Khan’s address after surviving an assassination bid.

The Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) maintained in its statement that the “allegations” levelled by the PTI chief against the institution and particularly a senior army officer were absolutely unacceptable and uncalled for, terming them “baseless and irresponsible”.

In a series of tweets, Umar stated that “the ISPR’s statement of yesterday has made unfounded allegations against Imran Khan. He has never spoken against the institution”.

He maintained that Imran had always spoken about the need to strengthen the institution.

“Criticism of individuals should NOT be called criticism of institution,” he said.

He asked the ISPR that “if no member of the institution does anything wrong, why are court martials carried out”, adding that “even general officers have been court martialed in the past”.

“If they do carry out acts which can be subject to court martial, why cannot they be criticized as individuals?” he questioned.

He stated that the institution deserved “love and respect based on the sacrifices made by its members to protect the nation”. However, he highlighted that not every individual was “necessarily worthy of that love and respect”.

The PTI leader furthered that if the ISPR wanted to hear “what disrespect for martyrs and the institution sound like, all they have to do is listen to the NA [National Assembly] speech of the “current defense minister where he claims the institution has ripped off the flesh of the nation from its bones”.

Call to protest

Earlier, in a separate tweet Umar called on PTI supporters to gather for protest in all cities across Pakistan at 5 pm on Sunday, adding that the protest site for each city would be announced by the local party heads.

“Let’s show them that no one can suppress a truly free nation,” he said.

He further said that he himself would partake in the protest at Liberty Chowk in Lahore.

ISPR rejects Imran’s statement

Hours after former premier Imran Khan addressed the nation, the miliary said that “allegations” levelled by the “PTI chairman” against the institution and particularly a senior army officer are absolutely unacceptable and uncalled for, terming them “baseless and irresponsible”.

“Pakistan army prides itself for being an extremely professional and well-disciplined organisation with a robust and highly effective internal accountability system applicable across the board for unlawful acts, if any, committed by uniformed personnel,” read a statement issued by the ISPR.

However, it added, THAT if the honour, safety and prestige of its rank and file is being tarnished by vested interests through frivolous allegations, the “institution will jealousy safeguard its officers and soldiers no matter what”.

Earlier, Imran said three people — Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah and a military official — were behind his assassination plot.

“Would you allow this military official to be probed in this case,” Imran asked COAS General Qamar Javed Bajwa. He also asked the army chief to take action against the senior army officer to protect the dignity of the institution.

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