ISLAMABAD: Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) chairman Imran Khan has accused Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif of offering an extension and a promotion to Chief of Army Staff Gen Raheel Sharif because “he is afraid of the army”.
In his post-midnight address to a rally in the capital on Sunday, Mr Khan said, in so many words: “The prime minister is repeatedly asking the army chief to take an extension and become a field marshal because he fears him; [PM Sharif] has all other institutions under his control.”
His claim came as the capital was rife with rumours that the army chief might be promoted to the rank of field marshal, in recognition of his success in leading Operation Zarb-i-Azb.
Information minister dismisses claim
According to some quarters, the offer was made, but Gen Sharif refused to accept it and decided to stick to his earlier decision of retiring as per schedule, on Nov 29 this year.
In January, when social media was abuzz with talk about a possible extension for the army chief, Gen Sharif had come out with an unequivocal statement, saying: “I do not believe in extension(s) and will retire on the due date.”
Information Minister Pervaiz Rashid said: “The PTI chief is known for making such irresponsible statements,” adding that until Mr Khan revealed the source of his information about the prime minister’s purported offer, “How can I respond to this assertion that is based on rumours?”
A security official told Dawn that the army chief had already announced his decision to retire on time and only the government could explain the rumours that had been doing the rounds over the past few weeks.
“As far as a decision regarding an extension or promotion for the army chief is concerned, it can only be made by the prime minister,” the official said.
In his speech, the PTI chairman predicted that the next Aug 14 would be the “real independence day”, when the country would be free from the clutches of the current ruling elite who had deprived the masses of education, health and other basic facilities over the years.
“They win elections through fraud and then make money in connivance with corrupt government officials as there is no one to check them,” he alleged.
He also came down hard on the National Accountability Bureau, saying that it only acted against minor criminals. “Those who loot the country appoint a Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) chairman and bring in people of their own choice to the Election Commission to manage elections.”
Overseas Pakistanis were willing to come back and invest in the country, but because of rampant corruption they preferred destinations like Dubai and Malaysia, he said.
In contrast, Mr Khan said, a minister had been arrested in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, while the father of a member of the KP Assembly had been sent behind bars by the provincial accountability department. “One must ask the FBR why it doesn’t act against those named in the Panama Papers.”
Imran Khan also accused two FBR officials — Dr Irshad and Amjad Tiwana — of ‘fixing’ the tax records of the Sharif family.
Challenging the democratic credentials of the Sharif brothers, the PTI chairman said those who were “spoon-fed politics by military dictators, took money from the ISI and even attacked the Supreme Court” were now giving him sermons on democracy.
He supported the military establishment’s assertion that the National Action Plan (NAP) against terrorism couldn’t achieve the desired results because the government had failed to fulfil its commitments about NAP.
Mr Khan said the federal government had failed to bring reforms to the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, or streamline seminaries.
Published in Dawn, August 15th, 2016