• Says he is always aware of meetings between politicians, military leadership • Defends decision to skip huddle on Gilgit-Baltistan
ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan on Friday said the opposition wanted to create a rift between the government and armed forces, claiming that he had been aware of politicians’ meetings with army leadership.
The prime minister in a meeting with news directors of some private TV channels said he had no fear of the opposition, as he would go for by-elections in the country if all opposition members gave resignation from the assemblies.
When contacted, a participant of the meeting said Mr Khan was asked if he knew about politicians’ meetings with Chief of Army Staff (COAS) Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa and Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) Director General Lt Gen Faiz Hameed last week. The premier replied he always knew about such meetings as well as about the recent particular meeting.
The prime minister, however, refused to comment on the meeting in which, according to the railways minister, top opposition leaders including Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) president Shahbaz Sharif and Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari were present. “I [am] always aware of such meetings but what I can say about the people who meet military leadership in secret,” the prime minister was quoted as saying.
Asked whether he was invited to the meeting or not, Mr Khan explained that the meeting was actually called from security point of view to brief the heads of political parties taking part in upcoming elections in Gilgit-Baltistan. “I have no need to attend the meeting because it was security related,” the prime minister said.
“Secondly, I did not want to sit with the opposition leaders who always tried to blackmail the government over even the recent legislation on Financial Action Task Force-related bills in the parliament,” Mr Khan declared. The opposition was not happy to see “unprecedented” harmony between the government and the army he said, adding that they wanted to create a rift between the civil-military leadership. “Army does 100 per cent what I ask it. Army honoured my decision on different important issues like return of Indian pilot Abhinandan to India, opening of Kartarpur Corridor for Sikh pilgrims, policies on Afghanistan and India etc,” he said.
Mr Khan said the army followed the manifesto of ruling Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) because its leadership was not corrupt. However, he rejected the impression that the PTI government came into power with the army’s help. However, he added, “Whereas the army had laid foundations of both PML-N and PPP.”
Answering another question, Mr Khan said he would not give any National Reconciliation Ordinance-like relief to the “corrupt politicians” and would hold by-elections if the opposition gave resignations from assemblies.
He was of the opinion that the [major] opposition parties always took Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-F (JUI-F) chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman with them, because their followers would not take to the streets.
The prime minister said former president Pervez Musharraf had committed a blunder by giving NRO to the politicians, paving the way of unprecedented corruption for one decade.
About the recent speech of PML-N supremo Nawaz Sharif aired through video link from London, Mr Khan said he allowed airing of his (Nawaz’s) speech on TV channels to “give a level-playing field” to the opposition. “I would have been blamed for subjugating the right of speech if I had not allowed media to televise his speech,” he said. But the opposition party leader was toeing an agenda of India that was why his speech was given a lot of media coverage in the neighbouring country, the prime minister said.
“Nawaz Sharif always blackmailed the army that was why he could not maintain good relations with such institutions, but now our government and the army have unprecedented harmony and this always irritates the opposition,” he added.
Talking about the Gilgit Baltistan assembly elections in November, Mr Khan said India wanted to create unrest in GB and spending a lot of money to meet its nefarious designs.
He said India also wanted to create a sectarian crisis in Pakistan by killing religious leaders of Shia and Sunni sects of Islam. He claimed that two groups from Islamabad had been busted recently, as they intended to kill religious leaders belonging to the two sects.
About the sugar “mafia”, Mr Khan said the government was taking stern action against the sugar barons involved in the sugar crisis so that they could not increase price of the commodity in future.
About the recent increase in the prices of 94 life-saving drugs, Mr Khan backed the decision and said their prices had not been increased for over 15 years, with the result that they had vanished from the market. “Now the supply of these medicines will improve,” he said.
Published in Dawn, September 26th, 2020