'Anger in army' over Nawaz's tirades but Gen Bajwa tolerating them for democracy: PM Imran

Published December 18, 2020
Prime Minister Imran Khan speaks during an interview on Samaa TV on Friday. — Samaa screengrab
Prime Minister Imran Khan speaks during an interview on Samaa TV on Friday. — Samaa screengrab

While there is "a lot of anger" within the army over the verbal attacks of PML-N supremo Nawaz Sharif and his party against the top military leadership, COAS Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa is putting up with the tirades for the sake of democracy.

This was stated by Prime Minister Imran Khan in an interview on Samaa broadcast on Friday.

Ousted prime minister Nawaz, in his speeches from London while addressing the anti-government rallies of the opposition Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) alliance, has alleged that Chief of Army Staff Gen Bajwa and ISI head Lt Gen Faiz Hameed orchestrated his ouster in 2017 and rigged the 2018 general elections to "impose the incompetent Imran Khan" on the nation.

"I praise Gen Bajwa today. To attack an army chief in this manner; a reaction comes from the army," Prime Minister Imran said, when asked whether there was any "anger" within the military over Nawaz's aggressive speeches.

"[But] Gen Bajwa is an uncomplicated man. There is composure in him, that is why he is tolerating this. There would be a big reaction if somebody else was leading the army," the premier added.

He said although there was "a lot of anger" within the army ranks, "I know he is tolerating this because he believes in democracy."

Prime Minister Imran said the opposition was today accusing him of being a "puppet", saying it wanted to talk to the establishment. "This means they're putting pressure on the army to remove a democratic government. This is [their] democratic movement," he added.

The premier said because the opposition realised he would not budge from his position, they were "appealing to the Pakistan Army, asking it to remove a democratic government. Article 6 applies on this; it is a case of treason."

"The opposition's second demand is that if the army and ISI chiefs do not remove me, then the army should remove them [the chiefs of army and ISI]," he added.

Answering a question, he emphasised that the Pakistan Army was a government department, saying: "The Pakistan Army is not sitting above me. It's below me."

The premier reiterated that the army and other institutions had stood by all of his government's decisions and policies and helped it tackle the Covid-19 crisis.

Speaking on the former governments' troubled relationships with the establishment, Prime Minister Imran said Nawaz was "manufactured by the army against the PPP". He said he himself received a message from military ruler Gen Ziaul Haq in 1988 that he wanted to make him (Imran) the prime minister.

He further said the establishment had helped the PML-N supremo in the 2013 elections but their ties became strained because the establishment did not support him in 2018.

'Long march specialist'

The prime minister dismissed the PDM's demand that he quit by January 31, saying the opposition did not have the public on its side.

About the PDM's announcement of staging a long march to the capital if the PTI government refuses to resign, Imran said if the alliance did indeed go ahead with such a march, it would "make it clear whether I have to resign or they have to".

Referring to himself as the "long march specialist", the prime minister said: "I am challenging ... if they spend even one week [in Islamabad], I will actually start thinking about resigning."

He said although the PTI had spent 126 days staging a sit-in against the then-PML-N government, the opposition would not be able to do so for even seven days "because people will not walk over to join them".

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