Imran Khan says Nawaz Sharif has become anti-establishment because Gen Bajwa is a neutral army chief.
Imran Khan says Nawaz Sharif has become anti-establishment because Gen Bajwa is a neutral army chief.

KARACHI: In remarks likely to trigger a controversy about the role of the establishment in the country’s electoral politics, Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) chairman Imran Khan on Thursday accused the army of helping the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) win the 2013 elections and paving the way for Nawaz Sharif to become prime minister for a third time.

Mr Khan said that Mr Sharif had lately become anti-establishment only because General Qamar Javed Bajwa was a “neutral army chief” who had not been supporting the ousted premier for his wrongdoings.

During an interview on a private news channel, the PTI chief alleged that the 2013 elections in Punjab had been monitored by the army and named Brigadier Ranjha who he said had personally supervised the job to ensure the PML-N emerged as the single largest party in the country.

However, Mr Khan became cautious when his claims were countered and he was pointedly asked about the role of then army chief Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani in those elections.

Railways Minister Saad Rafique rejects PTI chief’s allegations

“I don’t know whether it was a decision at the top level or not. But I know that in Punjab the army men had put blockade during the counting. Even the contesting candidates were not allowed when the consolidated counting process was going on. I don’t know if it was a decision from the top or General Kayani, but in Punjab everyone knows Brigadier Ranjha was supervising that job for the PML-N. He [Brigadier Ranjha] was then rewarded for that and appointed the DG of the Anti-Corruption Establishment, Punjab,” he said.

When asked by Hamid Mir, host of Geo News’ show Capital Talk, about the contradiction between his claim and the recent narrative of Nawaz Sharif who is accusing the establishment of turning against him that had led to his lifetime disqualification from politics, the PTI chief termed the former prime minister’s argument “senseless talk”.

“His [Nawaz] entire political career has grown under the army. He has grown under [General] Zia’s ideology. He was always supported by media, judiciary and military establishment,” Mr Khan said.

“I have found General Bajwa as the most pro-democratic and neutral army chief. The problem is that when he has not supported Nawaz Sharif for his wrongdoings, he has been declared anti-Nawaz Sharif. That’s his [Nawaz Sharif’s] mindset that whoever is not with him is against him,” he added.

Mr Khan said he was confident that the PTI would win majority seats in the next elections with a major upset in Punjab, claiming that the party’s popularity and vote bank had multiplied since 2013 due to good governance in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and its stance on reforms agenda across the country.

He said he did not see any “major delay” in the general elections. “It can be a wish of anyone, but I think elections can be delayed only for a month or two due to constituency and delimitation issues, but not more than that,” he said when asked what his reading was about the timely elections and much-talked about hung parliament in the future.

“I don’t think that hung parliament can be effective and good for the country. We have doubled our vote bank in KP and the same way we are growing as the most popular party in the country. The April 29 Minar-i-Pakistan rally was a reflection of our status in Punjab, which is a political capital of the country. If you win in Punjab, you win the elections. I have held 11 rallies in seven years at Minar-i-Pakistan; why has the PML-N not done even a single one there? Because they know that they cannot make it successful, so they rely only on small districts to portray them as big rallies,” the PTI chief said.

PML-N reaction

Railways Minister and senior PML-N leader Khawaja Saad Rafique took to social media to reject Imran Khan’s allegations and called the army’s role impartial during the 2013 elections.

“Imran Khan should be ashamed of leveling such allegations,” he tweeted.

“The Pakistan Army stayed impartial during 2013 general elections. Before the recent allegations, Imran Khan had blamed the judiciary as an institution for rigging general elections in 2013. There is no one to question Anokha Ladla [Imran Khan] but the nation will teach him lesson in the [upcoming] general elections,” he said.

Published in Dawn, May 4th, 2018