Sardar Arshad Rafiq, who was referred to by Prime Minister Narendra Modi as a “Pakistan former Army director general” meddling in the Gujarat election by rooting for Congress leader Ahmed Patel as CM, has said that he is a “nobody” to influence poll outcomes in other countries.
Speaking to The Indian Express from Islamabad, Rafiq denied he had written any post on Ahmed Patel but said: “Par agar Modi saheb apney shikhast ka sehra mere sar pe bandhna chah rahey hain (if Modi wants to give me credit for his defeat), he is most welcome. Sardaron key sar pe sehra hamesha bandha hota hai.”
Modi’s remarks on Rafiq came days after reports on social media of a purported Facebook post by Rafiq that “our leader and mentor Ahmed Patel (Rajya Sabha member and Sonia Gandhi’s political secretary) must be made Gujarat Chief Minister”.
Speaking in Banaskantha district Sunday, Modi said: “Pakistan former army director general Arshad Rafiq said that in Gujarat, Ahmed Patel should be made the chief minister. Why is Pakistan’s senior retired army officer exercising his brain in the Gujarat election?”
Asked if he considered Ahmed Patel his mentor, Rafiq replied: “I respect both Modi and Ahmed (Patel). My mentor is my faith, family and (the) Prophet.”
Rafiq said he was in his 50s and a “fourth generation Army man in his family”, who had served in the Pakistan Army for a “very short time” before leaving to join the federal Intelligence Bureau.
Asked about his rank, Rafiq declined to comment saying he did not want to drag the Pakistan Army into any controversy. The bio on his Facebook account, though, says he studied at the Pakistan Military Academy in Kakul. It had also listed him as “former DG, Pak Army” and “former IB”, but these details did not appear later on Monday evening.
An officer to be appointed Director-General in any of the branches of the Pakistan Army has to be at least a Major-General. Asked if he was a Major-General, Rafiq said there were no one of that rank in the IB. He said that he left the IB “long back” to look after his family affairs after the death of his father.
Although Rafiq does not appear to be well-known in Pakistan Army circles, he claimed to be from a “well-known” family in pre-Partition India. He said that he had old family links in India but did not know any politicians in Gujarat. “I have never ever met any Congress people,” he said.
“My friends are sending me images and that’s how I know about the controversy. But from what I saw, woh kaunsa atom bomb tha (what Atom bomb was) that he is making all these allegations about me?” he said.
Asked if he was interested in the Gujarat elections and its outcome, Rafiq said the world had shrunk enough for any person to be interested in developments in any another country. “Tomorrow you can comment on Pakistan politics, and I will respect that,” he said.
“My father was a spiritualist. We are not fundoos,” he said, using a common Pakistani slang for fundamentalists.
The photo on his Facebook profile, Rafiq said, is that of his late father. On Monday, his Facebook timeline did not show any posts on the Gujarat election. He said those who may have put a post there in the first place must have deleted it as well.
Many of Rafiq’s Facebook posts are about the Pakistan Army, some about music, there is one about Shashi Kapoor’s death, one in praise of Benazir Bhutto and her father Zulfikar Ali Bhutto as leaders who laid down their lives for Pakistan — and a photo of him with former Pakistan foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureishi.
“Modi saheb may be losing in Gujarat, but I don’t see how I am responsible for that. If he loses, that is the sweet will of the public in Gujarat,” he said.
Pakistan’s Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) did not answer emails or phone calls from The Indian Express seeking comment.
The only official reaction to Prime Minister Modi’s allegations came from the Pakistan foreign ministry spokesman Dr Mohammed Faisal, who tweeted on Monday morning: “India should stop dragging Pakistan into its electoral debate and win victories on own strength rather than fabricated conspiracies, which are utterly baseless and irresponsible.”