ISLAMABAD: Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly Shehbaz Sharif believes Prime Minister Imran Khan had knowingly tried to delay the extension in the tenure of the army chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa, and has claimed that while his party always respected the military, the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) was behind a social media campaign targeting the armed forces.

In an interview with Adil Shahzeb of DawnNews, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) president recalled that when PM Khan tried to extend the army chief’s tenure, the notification had to be redrafted three times.

While Mr Sharif admitted he had no solid information to back up his claims, it was his considered opinion that PM Khan intentionally tried to make the process of extension ‘controversial’.

Claims PTI, not opposition, behind anti-army campaign on social media

“The matter eventually went to the Supreme Court… in the past, army chiefs have been awarded extensions in service… all they had to do was copy-paste [from the previous summary]. No, this was all done as a deception, it was a fraud perpetrated by Imran Khan Niazi. He wanted to delay it, make a controversy out of it,” the opposition leader said.

He said that free and fair elections were the first rung of the ladder to prosperity, adding that all institutions should operate within their respective jurisdiction. “A consultative process is different from interference,” he remarked.

Separately, while addressing a press conference on Tuesday, Mr Sharif forcefully refuted the allegations that his party was behind an ongoing social media campaign against the army.

Instead, he accused the ruling PTI of maligning the armed forces, saying that video clips featuring PM Khan and his party members speaking out against the institution were available on YouTube.

Accompanied with senior party leaders at the news conference, the PML-N president said a video clip of a PTI MNA had recently surfaced where she could be heard “spewing venom” against the Pakistan Army.

Mr Sharif said that one could watch videos on YouTube that featured Mr Khan using the “derogatory” language against the army. “Nawaz Sharif never talked like this,” he added.

The opposition leader claimed that General Bajwa had, on several occasions during their interactions, categorically stated that Nawaz Sharif while he was the prime minister had always respected him.

He also quoted the army chief as saying that whenever he had asked the ex-premier to do something for the army or provide funds, he never refused.

Talking about the corruption allegations against the Sharif family, the opposition leader hailed the apology made by Broadsheet chief Kaveh Moussavi. He said it had not only vindicated Nawaz Sharif and his family, but also dealt a “resounding slap on the face of PM Imran Khan and his politically-inspired witch-hunt in the name of accountability.”

Published in Dawn, March 23rd, 2022

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