Opposition’s real issue is with ISI, says PM

10 Oct 2020

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ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan addressing a seminar organised by the Insaf Lawyers Forum on Friday.—APP
ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan addressing a seminar organised by the Insaf Lawyers Forum on Friday.—APP

• I am democracy: Imran
• Calls PDM an ‘alliance of jobless politicians’

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan has said that the opposition’s real issue with the military is that they remained unable to “control” the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) unlike other institutions after the agency found out about their alleged corruption.

Addressing a seminar organised by the Insaf Lawyers Forum (ILF) on Friday, the prime minister said the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) wanted to turn the ISI into a force like the Punjab Police. “They control all the institutions whose job it is to keep checks and balances, except one. They know the ISI is aware of all their theft. They try to control it and that’s where the conflict starts.”

Mr Khan said since Nawaz Sharif was not clean, he could not respond to the then director general of the ISI when the latter demanded his resignation.

“Why did he (Zaheerul Islam) say that? And why did you (Nawaz) silently listen to that? Because Zaheerul Islam knew how much money you had stolen.”

The prime minister said the ISI knew he (Imran) had never minted money and he was a true democrat. “If I too start laundering money out of the country, the ISI will find out about it before anyone else because it is the world’s top agency,” he explained. The reason he did not have any “problems” with the army and the military supported his government was that he had “clean record”, he added.

Prime Minister Khan said Nawaz Sharif’s real cause was not democracy but protecting his financial interests.

“I am democracy,” he declared. “I was elected after bagging the most votes in Pakistan and won from five constituencies.”

Referring to the opposition’s allegation of the vote having been stolen in the 2018 elections, the premier said if there had been rigging, his party would not need a coalition to form a government.

Talking about Nawaz Sharif’s call to his supporters to take to the streets against the government, Mr Khan said PML-N workers would not come out even if they were bribed with money and keemay kay naan.

He recalled that the former military dictator General Pervez Musharraf promulgated the National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO) for the PML-N and Pakistan Peoples Party “under pressure”, but due to that NRO, Pakistan suffered an irreparable loss. He said the parties in opposition were again maligning the army and the judiciary to get some NRO-like relief, but such a move would tantamount to ending the rule of law. “It would lead Pakistan into a total disaster,” he added.

The opposition, he said, tried to blackmail his government over necessary legislation related to the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) and demanded 35 amendments to the National Accountability Ordinance in a bid to turn the National Accountability Bureau into a toothless institution.

Referring to what he termed Nawaz’s “attacks” on the Pakistan Army, Mr Khan said: “If anyone is going around with India’s agenda, it is the [PML-N].” He said if the military was weakened, Pakistan would see turbulence similar to the situation in other Muslim countries such as Libya, Syria and Yemen.

“We are safe today because of the sacrifices rendered by our armed forces,” said the premier.

Terming the opposition’s Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) an “alliance of jobless politicians”, the prime minister said the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) government would allow peaceful procession of the opposition, but the law would take its course if anyone would dare to break the law.

He then criticised former governor and PML-N leader Mohammad Zubair for drawing parallel between Iran’s Ayatollah Khomeini and Nawaz Sharif. “I was watching TV and a brother of our minister [Zubair] was comparing Nawaz Sharif to Ayatollah Khomeini during a talk show. He [Zubair] was saying Khomeini was also exiled,” the prime minister said. He added that Khomeini had been forced into exile at gunpoint while Nawaz “faked” numerous illnesses to do the same. He said the two were not similar by any account, as “the people of Iran actually love Ayatollah Khomeini, as he did not have nihari brought to him on helicopters from Lahore”. He said the founder of revolution in Iran lived [on a simple diet] of yoghurt and roti.

The PM announced health cards for ILF members, provision of affordable loan for home construction and vetting the legal agreements of the government from lawyers.

Earlier, ILF chairman Barrister Ali Zafar said the responsibility to take the first step towards reforming and improving the legal system fell on the legal fraternity. While criticising the political elite, Barrister Zafar said the political elite had been using [only] ‘of the people’ and ‘for the people’ part of the phrase, because it took them back to power.

Published in Dawn, October 10th, 2020