Prime Minister Imran Khan revealed on Friday that the "establishment" had given him three options: "resignation, no-confidence [vote] or elections", following the filing of a no-confidence motion against him in the National Assembly.
He shared this during an interview to ARY News, which was aired on Friday, while responding to questions about whether the opposition, government or "another party" had proposed early elections and his resignation as options.
The premier said when he was presented with the three options, "We said elections is the best option, I cannot even think about resigning and as far as the no-confidence vote is concerned, I believe in fighting till the end."
Pointing out that several members of Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf had defected to the opposition ahead of the no-trust vote, the premier explained that even if the opposition's no-trust move failed, "We cannot run the government with such people (defectors)."
So, he said, "it will be better for Pakistan if we hold elections again."
Asked whether he was prepared to go for early elections, he replied, "If we win [in] this [no-confidence] vote, it is a very good idea to go for early elections."
To a question about what would the government's strategy be in case the opposition's no-trust motion fails, he answered, "We will make a strategy [in the coming days]."
'There's threat to my life'
Earlier in the interview, the premier said there was a threat to his life, claiming that those conspiring to topple his government were "scared knowing that even if he is ousted, the public will continue to support him".
"I am saying this openly that there is a threat to my life," he said.
"They, all those who have colluded [against me], know that I will not sit silently," the prime minister went on, adding, "What do they think? They will spend Rs20 billion, Rs25 billion and topple my government and I will watch silently?"
"This is why I am saying openly, there is a threat to my life."
The prime minister's statement comes hours after Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry said a plot to assassinate Prime Minister Imran Khan had been reported by security agencies.
Earlier this week, PTI leader Faisal Vawda had made similar claims, stating that a conspiracy was being hatched to assassinate the prime minister over his refusal to "sell the country".
Vawda had made the remarks on ARY News show "Off the Record" in response to a question about a letter PM Imran brandished at the PTI's March 27 power show in Islamabad, claiming it contained "evidence of a "foreign conspiracy" to topple his government.
He said there was a threat to the prime minister's life but remained evasive when asked whether the purported conspiracy to assassinate the premier was mentioned in the letter.
When PM Imran Khan confirmed this in his interview, he said his life was under threat because he did not suit those involved in the conspiracy as well as "people like Shehbaz Sharif, who polishes boots" and "are slaves to money".
The premier added that people like PML-N President Shehbaz had no public support.
Without naming anyone, he continued, "They are afraid of people who have public support. They are talking about assassination because they know that if he (PM Imran) is ousted from the government, he will still be relevant because the public is with him."
"Then they go for the other option. Look at the history," PM Imran said, adding that "they will try their best through local collaborators, the three stooges" — a term he uses to refer to Shehbaz, PPP co-chair Asif Ali Zardari and Pakistan Democratic Movement chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman.
The prime minister further claimed that a campaign would also be initiated for his "character assassination", adding that his wife, Bushra Bibi, and one of her associates named Farah would also be targeted.
'Knew about the conspiracy since Aug'
Earlier in the interview, the prime minister revealed that he was aware of the "conspiracy" being hatched to oust his government since August last year.
"I had an idea since August and I also knew that planning was ongoing in London," he said, adding that he had also informed his cabinet back then that the coming "winter would be a very difficult time for us".
He said he also had reports from agencies in this regard, as he went to name PML-N supremo as one of the persons involved in the conspiracy.
"He (Nawaz Sharif) was meeting people, people like Hussain Haqqani [...] who was involved in memogate. They were in constant touch," he alleged, claiming that Nawaz had held the last meeting in this regard on March 3. "And we received this document (a letter he claims has evidence of a foreign conspiracy to topple his government) on March 7."
The prime minister went on to say that people who had colluded in this purported conspiracy were also against the Pakistan Army, adding that "Pakistan has been surviving because of its army."
"And Nawaz Sharif and his daughter have openly railed against the army," he remarked.
The prime minister further alleged that the joint opposition was making efforts to oust his government in order to get an NRO (amnesty).
"But I will never give them an NRO," he expressed his resolve.
Moreover, he said "external powers" needed "robbers and thugs ... and the corrupt who become their slaves to save their corruption".
He further claimed that the "threat letter" said if Imran Khan was ousted through the no-confidence vote, the foreign powers involved in the conspiracy would "forgive Pakistan".
"But if he survives the no-confidence vote, there will be dire consequences for Pakistan and we will isolate Imran Khan," he added. "How do they know that the new government will work [well] with them? ... This means that they had a connection with them (opposition). This means that this conspiracy is being hatched for the past six months."
He went on to say that some PTI members who had defected, people from the opposition and media persons had been meeting with officials at "embassies".
"I had all the reports," he said.
To a question about whether his recent visits to China and Russia had "fast-paced the process of regime change against him", he compared Pakistan's foreign policy to that of India.
"During the Cold War between America and the Soviet Union, they (India) remained non-aligned. They were close to the Soviet Union" but they still maintained ties with the US.
"And because of their (India's) foreign policy, see how is the Indian passport respected in comparison to Pakistan's," he added. "When you are a self-respecting nation, others respect you as well. But we continued to change blocs," he lamented.
He further lambasted the previous governments for allowing drone attacks in the country during America's war on terror.
'No differences on ISI chief's appointment'
In response to a question about civil-military relations with respect to "an appointment in October" — which was an apparent reference to the appointment of a new Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) director general — the prime minister said, "We were all on one page. We had no differences"
He said he had no issues with the military leadership unlike past leaders, who were "scared of the army because of their corruption".
When the anchorperson specifically named the former ISI chief, Lt Gen Faiz Hameed, asking whether the premier wanted him to continue as the spymaster because he was his favourite, PM Imran said he had worked with Lt Gen Faiz for three years and he knew that the winter of 2021 winter "will the most difficult time for us".
Citing economic difficulties and the situation in Afghanistan after the US exit, he said "I was insisting on him (Lt Gen Faiz) continuing till winter as he was experienced".
"They had their own view, which was that there was a system in the army. They had their own perspective and I had mine. But I wasn’t thinking about who will be the new army chief," he clarified.
He also denied reports that he intended to de-notify Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa as the army chief and said it was "the PML-N's disinformation campaign".