Prime Minister Imran Khan has said PML-N supremo Nawaz Sharif is playing a "dangerous game" by levelling allegations of political interference against the army and claimed that the former premier has India's support.
In an interview with journalist Nadeem Malik on Samaa TV on Thursday, he also said the relations between his government and the military are the "best in history" because all institutions are working in their spheres.
"This is a dangerous game Nawaz is playing; Altaf Hussain played the same game," he said, adding that he was "100 per cent" sure that India was helping the PML-N leader.
"Whose interest is it that our army weakens? Our enemies," he added, saying some "foolish liberals" were agreeing with Nawaz's narrative.
"Look at Libya, Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen; the entire Muslim world is ablaze [so] why are we safe? If it weren't for our army, our country would've been in three pieces. India's think-tanks say that they want to break Pakistan."
He said Nawaz was creating a "huge fitna (mischief)" by attacking the army.
"He (Nawaz) is becoming the next Altaf Hussain. He is a coward, I am sure he has support [from India]," he said.
"I am so angry that he went abroad by lying shamelessly. All kinds of lies were told that he is about to die, [his] platelets are low, etc." which led the government to allow him to leave, the premier added.
Answering a question about Nawaz's return to Pakistan, the prime minister said his government was asking the British government to "send him back" and that there was a "plan in place".
"We allowed him to leave on humanitarian grounds ... and now that he is there he has started politics. We know he is meeting different people and is conspiring against the nation," he added.
Prime Minister Imran said he was the "first person in the country's history" who won elections from five constituencies and who was "not grown in any military nursery like Nawaz or Zulfikar Ali Bhutto".
He reiterated that he did not have any issues with the army and came to power after mobilising the public and struggling on his own.
"Justice [Asif Saeed] Khosa during the Panama Papers case had said that all institutions in Pakistan were rotten and paralysed," he said. "Only one institution is intact which is the army and we take their assistance to fight Covid, locusts, etc. If I hadn't sent the NDMA to clean nullahs [in Karachi], more water would have entered [buildings]."
'Army has evolved'
Prime Minister Imran said the army could not be cursed due to the mistakes made by some dictators.
"If a dictator made mistakes will we always call the army bad? If Justice Munir gave a wrong decision will we call the judiciary bad? If politicians looted wealth and stashed it abroad are all politicians bad?" the premier asked.
He said Pakistan's history provided the lesson that the "military's job is not to run the government. If a democratically elected government is performing poorly, it does not mean martial law should be imposed; it means the government should be improved.
"If a judge gives a wrong decision it means the judiciary has to evolve. The army has evolved as well. Contemporary civil-military relations are the best in history because they are all working in their spheres."
He said the army had stood by his decisions including those regarding relations with India, opening of the Kartarpur Corridor and the coronavirus pandemic.
The premier said PML-N supremo Nawaz Sharif was "never a democratic man" and entered politics through the army's support.
"Now he has become a super democrat," he added, saying Nawaz had problems with various former army chiefs and Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa, whom he himself appointed.
The prime minister said Nawaz has problems with the army because "they come to steal and our world-class agencies detect their theft".
He said Nawaz during his tenure had controlled the civil institutions and even the judiciary and had his workers attack the Supreme Court "when justice Sajjad Ali Shah could not be controlled".
"Only the army was not under his control. That is why he couldn't get along [with them]."
Referring to the claim reportedly made by Nawaz that ex-ISI chief Zaheerul Islam had called him to ask him to resign, Imran said: "You were the prime minister, [how] does he have the courage to say that to you?
"If someone tells that to me, I will demand his resignation. I am the democratically elected prime minister; who can dare to tell me to step down?"
Prime Minister Imran said in a democratic system, a person's moral authority is what counts.
"[Nawaz] has no moral authority. When he had a two-thirds majority, he tried to become Ameerul Momineen ... Why don't I want to become the same?"
He said in security matters the army has the biggest say in any country in the world.
"India has become a security issue," he added. "We know India sponsors terrorism in Pakistan but since we were aiming to bring peace because we wanted to lift our economy, the army stood by me."
'Gen Bajwa asked me about meeting opposition'
Answering a question regarding a meeting held between prominent opposition leaders and the army chief, Prime Minister Imran said Gen Bajwa had called the meeting regarding Gilgit-Baltistan after asking him.
"There was a purpose behind [the meeting]," he said. "India is active in GB; it is also part of the CPEC route and ... the region is in limbo. The people there want rights and India is exploiting that.
"It was important that the [army] explained to them what security issues are coming up. Whenever there is a security matter, I prefer the army to explain because they have institutional memory."
The premier said India wanted to create disturbance in the country by creating a Shia-Sunni conflict.
"We knew for three months, they were aiming for the assassination of Shia and Sunni scholars. Thank God our agencies caught that [and] a terrorist group was busted in Punjab," he revealed.
'Will put them all in jail'
Responding to a question, the prime minister said he was not threatened by the opposition's recent announcement to launch a street movement against him. He added that no one could know about street movements better than him.
"To make the public come out, you need to pick something that interests the masses. They (opposition) can never lure masses out," he said, adding that Nawaz was targeting institutions by sitting abroad so he could get an NRO-like deal.
"I am under no pressure. If someone today asks me to give them an NRO to save my premiership, I will step down."
He said the opposition has the right to peaceful protest. "They can do that as much as they want but if they step outside the law, I will put them all in jails."
Asked about his comment regarding 'umpire's finger' during the PTI sit-in against the PML-N government, the premier said he "never meant the army" when he used the term.
"In my eyes, the only umpire is Allah. I went to jail in [Pervez] Musharraf's time, why would I want the army to take over [during PML-N's term]?" he said.
Regarding his visit to the General Headquarters in 2014, Imran said the PML-N government had "asked [then-army chief Gen] Raheel Sharif to talk to us. They asked us to end the sit-in; we said no, everyone knows that."
He said it "would be great" if the opposition decides to resign from the assemblies.
"If we give in to them, our coming generations will never forgive us," he maintained.
'Allegation against Asim Bajwa will be pursued if questions raised'
Prime Minister Imran was asked to comment on a recent controversy generated by a news report regarding the offshore business assets of his aide Lt Gen Asim Saleem Bajwa's family.
In response, he said Bajwa had "produced a detailed document with all the answers" to the serious allegation hurled against him.
"It's a public document; if someone raises any questions over it I will investigate it," the premier added.
"After he (Bajwa) submitted his response, we sat with the law minister and studied his response. If someone has objections to that response I will pursue the matter."
'Fake reporting damaged govt'
Answering a question regarding press freedom in the country, the premier said no other government in the past had faced the kind of criticism in the media that the PTI government had in its two years of power.
"The conditions were obviously difficult, so they were reported. But then there was fake reporting; it damaged us," he added.
He said while some media houses had done "a good job", some others "played a role in protecting culprits".
Prime Minister Imran said his government had nothing to do with the abduction of journalist Matiullah Jan from Islamabad.
"No one in my government can be involved in it. How was he harming me? How would we benefit from that?"
New rape law
Prime Minister Imran said his government would introduce a new law regarding punishments for rape, suggesting it would involve death sentences as well as chemical castration.
"This (castration) is done in many countries for repeat offenders," he added, noting that child rape cases are often not reported because parents fear ostracisation.