Furious PM hits back at Nawaz, vows to put him in jail

18 Oct 2020

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ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan addressing the Tiger Force convention on Saturday.—White Star
ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan addressing the Tiger Force convention on Saturday.—White Star

• Assails ex-PM for using inappropriate language for COAS, ISI chief
• Says production orders for parliament session won’t be issued for detained opposition leaders
• Insists Gen Bajwa standing with govt in foreign policy, Covid, post-rain crises
• For God’s sake, decide corruption cases early, Imran urges CJP
• Says imported wheat to reduce prices

ISLAMABAD: Hitting back at his political opponents a day after their power show in Gujranwala, a furious Prime Minister Imran Khan on Saturday declared that he would get “tougher” with them and vowed to start making all-out efforts to bring Nawaz Sharif, supreme leader of the opposition Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz, back to the country and send him behind bars.

“Come back and see where I put you [Nawaz Sharif],” said the prime minister touching his chin as a gesture and challenging the deposed prime minister to return to the country while concluding his nearly 45-minute address to a charged crowd at the Tiger Force convention.

“After Naya Pakistan, now you will see a new Imran Khan..... Insha Allah, now I will show you how to fight,” said Mr Khan amid anti-opposition and pro-government slogans by the Corona Relief Tiger Force volunteers and ruling Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf workers.

“Now I will try my best to bring you back and put you in common prison, not VIP,” the PM said, while lashing out at the PML-N supremo for criticizing the military leadership during his Friday speech at Gujranwala’s public meeting via a video link from London. The speech, which went viral on social media, was not broadcast on mainstream media under Pemra directives.

The prime minister further announced that no more production orders would be issued for detained leaders, including opposition leader in the National Assembly and PML-N President Shahbaz Sharif, to allow them to attend the parliament session.

While Mr Khan also targeted other opposition leaders including Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) and JUI-F chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman, Pakistan Peoples Party Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari and PML-N’s vice-president Maryam Nawaz and made some personal attacks on them, his speech mostly focused ex-PM Sharif for using offensive language against the military leadership.

Terming the Jinnah Stadium gathering a “circus”, the premier alleged that the opposition was “making efforts to create a rift between the army and his government and a chaos within the army ranks”.

He said the PML-N leader used inappropriate “language” against the army and ISI chiefs at a time when Pakistani soldiers were sacrificing their lives for the country. “Constant attacks are taking place on our soldiers. They are sacrificing their lives every day. Only a day before yesterday, our 20 security personnel sacrificed their lives in two attacks. Why are they sacrificing their lives? For us. For the country. And this jackal that had fled used such language for the army chief and the DG ISI,” the PM remarked amid chanting of “Pak Army Zindabad”.

In his hard-hitting speech at the PDM meeting via video link from London on Friday, the deposed premier alleged the security establishment had been behind his ouster before “bringing Imran Khan into power” through “rigged” elections in 2018. Mr Sharif had even named army chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa and ISI chief Lt-Gen Faiz Hameed, alleging that they were responsible for making a “state above the state”.

Mr Khan said: “I understand whose game he is playing. I have full intelligence and I know everything.” He said the deposed PM did not attack just one or two persons but the entire institution of army. Mr Sharif was trying to appease Indian and Israeli lobbies, he said, reminding the Tiger Force volunteers that the PML-N leadership in the past had maligned the judiciary.

“Was Panama case filed by General Bajwa?” the PM asked.

Mr Khan said it was Gen Bajwa who had assisted his government in the handling of coronavirus outbreak and post-rain situation in Karachi. He praised the army leadership for accepting a cut in the defence expenditures due to the poor economic conditions of the country.

In foreign policy matters, too, the army and Gen Bajwa were standing with him, the prime minister announced.

He said Indian newspapers praising Mr Sharif’s speech were calling him a democratic man “for asking the military to do its job”. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi was also using similar language against Pakistan and its army, he highlighted.

For him, Mr Khan declared, “it makes no difference who is the army chief and who is the ISI chief because I have not laundered money”. He went on to say: “This man [Mr Sharif] became a minister while making iron bars at the house of Gen Ghulam Jilani. He is the man who later became chief minister by polishing the boots of (the then army chief) Gen Ziaul Haq,”.

Mr Sharif had received millions of rupees from Mehran Bank with the help the then ISI chief to contest elections against the PPP, explained PM Khan.

Appeal to CJP, NAB

The prime minister said it was unfortunate that the “courts had always helped Nawaz Sharif” and requested Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Justice Gulzar Ahmed Khan to decide the corruption cases at the earliest.

“For God’s sake, hold day-to-day hearings and decide the cases,” PM Khan pleaded while announcing that his government was ready to provide all “logistic support” to the courts.

Mr Khan also requested the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) to swiftly take the corruption cases to logical conclusion, as people had been desperately waiting to see the looted amount being returned to the country.

Amid chants of anti-opposition slogans, Mr Khan said he had predicted some 11 years ago that all the “thieves” and corrupt opposition parties would get together when he would make them accountable.

He said he would not comment on the speeches made by PML-N vice president Maryam Nawaz and PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari in Gujranwala. He didn’t want to comment on the speeches made by the “kids who have been brought up with their fathers’ haraamkamai (ill-gotten gains),” the prime minister said.

Despite provocation by the party workers who kept on raising slogans “diesel, diesel”, the prime minister said he would not utter words against JUI-F chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman and termed him only a 12th man in the 11-member team of the opposition parties.

Showing on screen the gloomy and aggressive faces of Nawaz Sharif while being in Pakistan and during his address from London, PM reiterated that Nawaz was allowed to go abroad having seen the emotional picture of his critical ailment painted before the cabinet.

The prime minister also mentioned three books by foreign authors mentioning corruption tales of both Sharif and Zardari families. “These people can sell the country to save their stolen money,” he said, adding that the books he mentioned were also “not written by Gen Bajwa,” Mr Khan said. “What they have done to their country is what Mir Jafar and Mir Sadiq had done to their people,” he remarked.

‘PML-N leader sought Gen Bajwa’s help’

Mr Khan said the government had “documentary evidence” that the PML-N had spent Rs2.5 billion from state funds to win the by-election in Lahore’s NA-120 constituency, adding that the case had been forwarded to NAB.

Referring to the allegation of ‘rigged’ elections, the PM said the number of petitions filed to challenge vote count was less after the 2018 polls than in the post-2013 elections.

The prime minister further alleged that PML-N leader Khawaja Asif sought Gen Bajwa’s help in the general elections. He alleged that Mr Asif had made a telephone call to the army chief on the night of the election and cried for help. He alleged that the PML-N leader told the army chief that he was losing the polls so he should be helped.

Price hike

While explaining reasons for the prevailing price hike in the country, the prime minister said Pakistan had a record trade deficit of Rs40 billion when the PTI came into power in 2018. Because of the deficit, the rupee fell sharply against the dollar, making import of goods, including food items, more expensive.

Besides, PM Khan said “ill-timed rains” damaged the wheat crop and its price started rising because of a shortage.

“We came to know about it late because the system for determining it was non-functional,” the premier admitted before announcing that imported wheat would meet the requirement.

Mr Khan, who had last week announced that he would use the CRTF volunteers to check prices of food items, asked the Tiger Force members “not to interfere anywhere personally” and only take a picture and upload that and the location where a product is being hoarded to the government’s portal. “It is the job of the administration to take action. You have to go to shops where prices are not displayed and you have to take and send a picture,” he said.

Published in Dawn, October 18th, 2020