Inter Services Public Relations condemned the remarks by the Jamaat e Islami chief declaring dead terrorists as martyrs while insulting the martyrdom of thousands of innocent Pakistani civilians and soldiers.

The war of words between the Jamaat e Islami (JeI) and the Pakistan army on who is a martyr, has sharpened public debate on the issue and elicited a ringing endorsement for the security forces from the public at large. Before his controversial TV statement, JeI chief Syed Munawar Hassan had already declared at a press conference that Tehreek e Taliban Pakistan (TTP) chief Hakimullah Mehsud was a martyr and that all those who fought Americans should be given that accolade.

He was not alone. The leader of the right wing Jamiat Ulema e Islam (JUI -F) Maulana Fazlur Rehman had also dubbed Mehsud a martyr. The JUI(F) supports the federal government with 13 members in the National Assembly and after Mehsud’s death, Maulana Fazlur Rehman had remarked that even a dog who is killed by the US is a martyr. However, Jan Achakzai, spokesperson for the JUI(F) told The Hindu that “It is not for us to decide who is a martyr. The Maulana had said this is in a figurative sense and not a literal sense and he was expressing his displeasure over the US policy.”

It was a strong reaction from the Inter Services Public Relations(ISPR) to Hassan’s utterances that fuelled the debate. It condemned the irresponsible and misleading remarks by Syed Munawar Hassan in a TV programme, declaring the dead terrorists as “shaheed” (martyrs) while insulting the shahadat or martyrdom of thousands of innocent Pakistanis and soldiers of Pakistan’s armed forces.

“Syed Munawar Hassan has tried to invent a logic based on his political convenience. Strong condemnation of his views from an overwhelming majority leaves no doubt in any one’s mind that all of us are very clear on what the state of Pakistan is and who are its enemies,” the ISPR statement said.

The statement pointed out that the sacrifices of the army and their families needed no endorsement from Syed Munawar Hassan and such misguided and self-serving statements deserve no comments. However, coming from Ameer of the Jamat-e-Islami, a party founded by Maulana Maududi, who is respected and revered for his services to Islam is both painful and unfortunate, it added. It called on the JeI to clearly state its party position on the matter and said Hassan should apologise for hurting the sentiments of the people of Pakistan, whose loved ones laid down their life while fighting the terrorists.

Mr. Hassan has no such intentions and is unrepentant. He said that he stood by his statement and his party pointed out that the army should not interfere in politics. Already a petition has been filed in the Islamabad high court against Hassan’s remarks. The JeI says the issue was about ending drone strikes and blocking NATO supplies. However, at a meeting of its top leaders on Monday, the JeI mellowed a bit and said that it considered all those who died fighting as martyrs.

The government too has endorsed the ISPR statement and federal Information Minister Pervaiz Rashid has been quoted as saying it was the voice of every Pakistani.

The JeI in the past has been a staunch supporter of the army and Lt General (retd) Talat Masood, chief coordinator of Pugwash told The Hindu on Tuesday that the present leadership had blundered. Hassan is isolated even in his own party and from the statements made by other JeI members, it is clear there are dissensions. “They either support the military or the militants,” remarked Lt. General Masood.

However, he felt the debate had helped to mobilise support for the armed forces and brought about greater clarity on who is a martyr. It was shameful on the JeI’s part to utter such statements, he added.

This article has been corrected for a factual error.