Army never put pressure over foreign policy, appointments: PM

Published November 29, 2020
Prime Minister Imran Khan speaks during an interview aired on Saturday. — Express News screengrab
Prime Minister Imran Khan speaks during an interview aired on Saturday. — Express News screengrab

• Says Punjab govt running on ‘trial & error basis’ • Anyone can move NAB against Asim Bajwa • Buzdar will emerge as best-ever CM

ISLAMABAD: Claiming that there is “no pressure” on him from the military in running the government affairs, Prime Minister Imran Khan on Saturday forcefully defended all his appointments at the Centre as well as in Punjab, declaring them to be on merit.

During an exclusive interview to Express News, the prime minister, in response to a question about the performance of Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar and frequent changes in police and bureaucracy in the province, said that they had been running on “trial and error basis” since they had formed the government for the first time.

Interestingly, during more than an hour-long interview, there was no mention of the Covid-19 pandemic and the recent government actions against the opposition leaders and workers in Multan ahead of the PDM’s public meeting.

The prime minister stated the army had never asked him for appointing any person to any position and all those ex-military persons, including retired Lt Gen Asim Saleem Bajwa, working in different organisations were appointed on merit.

“If we have appointed retired military persons, then was it under pressure or have we appointed better people?” the PM asked.

“Why should I resist when there is no pressure from the army,” the prime minister said when his response was sought on allegations that he had been picked by the army since it wanted a ‘yes man’ in office and he had appointed many retired army people on key posts without offering resistance.

Mr Khan said it was believed that the army interfered in foreign policy matters, but his government’s foreign policy was exactly as per the manifesto of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI).

“There is no pressure on me and nor can anyone exert pressure on me,” he said. He said the army knew everything about him and the others who had plundered money.

“The ISI and the IB know whatever I do and with whom I talk to on telephone,” he said.

When asked if he had no issue with the agencies tapping his phone, he said it happened all over the world and even the CIA did the same in the US.

He was of the view that the agencies did such things as they were responsible for providing security to the heads.

“The ISI knows as to whom I will be calling and why I am calling,” he said, adding the ISI also knew as to who had taken money out of the country.

Mr Khan said retired Lt Gen Asim Bajwa had been appointed as chairman of the now defunct China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) Authority because he had headed the Southern Command of the army in Balochistan and had negotiated with the Chinese. Moreover, he said, since Balochistan was facing security issues and Gwadar had a central position in CPEC, therefore, “when we came to power, we considered Bajwa as the best option”.

He said Mr Bajwa had been made his special assistant on information on temporary basis since he had turned the Inter-Services Public Relations into an institution.

When asked about the allegations involving offshore companies of Mr Bajwa and his family, Mr Khan said Mr Bajwa had submitted a detailed reply to the allegations which was reviewed by him and the law minister. He, however. said if someone had anything against Mr Bajwa, he could move an application to the National Accountability Bureau (NAB).

The premier once again defended Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar and claimed that after his five-year tenure, he would emerge as “the number one chief minister”. He said frequent changes in police and bureaucracy did not mean that the chief minister was not functioning properly. He said the Punjab bureaucracy had been politicised and people had been appointed without merit. “When you face hurdles, you make changes,” he said.

Mr Khan said that he had not promised to provide 10 million jobs in two years and claimed that when his government would complete the five-year term, even more than 10 million jobs would have been provided. Similarly, he vowed to fulfill his promise of providing five million houses to the poor people of the country.

In response to a question about former PTI secretary general Jahangir Tareen, Mr Khan said he was presently facing cases and even FIRs had been registered against him. He said Mr Tareen was going through bad times and he regretted that because he had been very close to him.

When asked if Mr Tareen was still a party member, he simply said that he held no party office.

He did not give a reply when asked if Mr Tareen was still in contact with him and was sending him messages which he was not responding to.

He said Mr Tareen had gone to the court and the inquiry in the sugar scam was still going on. He vowed that action would be taken against all those found responsible for a scam and there would be no interference from his office.

The prime minister gave a clean chit to Minister for Economic Affairs Khusro Bakhtiar in the sugar scam, saying that only the name of his brother was there in the inquiry report.

Mr Khan also defended the recent appointment of Naeem Bokhari as the PTV chairman. He said Mr Bokhari had been associated with the PTV for the past 50 years and even before becoming his lawyer in the Panama case.

The prime minister, however, disagreed with Mr Bokhari’s recent comments that the opposition would not be given any time on the state-run TV.

“If the PTV will become only the government’s mouthpiece then its rating will come down,” the prime minister said.

Commenting on the comeback of Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan in Punjab, Mr Khan said that she had been removed from the Centre as she had some issues with one or two people in the party and there were some “problems” in the ministry. He denied that there were corruption charges against Dr Awan.

Mr Khan said that whenever he receives complaints of corruption against someone in the party he investigates them through the Intelligence Bureau.

Published in Dawn, November 29th, 2020

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