• Reveals no decision yet on early elections
• Trip to Beijing to revive CPEC on the cards
• Says Nawaz will return when his treatment is complete
LAHORE: Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif lashed out at his predecessor and PTI chief Imran Khan on Sunday for “hatching a grand conspiracy against Pakistan”, saying that legal action would be taken.
The PM, who was on his second visit to Lahore since assuming office, said in a late-night statement that those concocting a narrative against national institutions were the real Mir Jafars and Mir Sadiqs and that Imran Khan had challenged the state, Constitution and national institutions during his speech in Abbottabad on Sunday.
The PM said what Imran was doing could only be categorised as “conspiracy and not politics” and this conspiracy was not against political rivals, but rather against the country.
Earlier, in a talk with journalists and anchors in Model Town here, he said there was no decision yet on whether his government would like to complete its term till August 2023 or go for early elections.
“A decision in this respect will be taken in consultation with the government allies,” the premier said apparently in the wake of confusion among PML-N and its allies’ ranks over the matter.
PML-N ministers, including Shahid Khaqan Abbasi and Rana Sanaullah, had categorically maintained the general election would be held after the government completed its term in August next year, but senior PML-N leader Ishaq Dar told a private TV channel on Sunday that Nawaz Sharif wanted early elections. “And in my opinion the next election should be held this October,” Dar said.
He said: “Whether we have to go for the election after completion of the term of the government in August or go for early polls... this will be decided in consultation with allies.”
The PM also hinted at going into next elections in alliance with coalition partners.
On electoral reforms, he said: “We will bring electoral reforms and also try to take the PTI onboard, but knowing their track record it may not become part of this consultative process.” He said (PTI chairman) Imran Khan had made a habit of rejecting everything.
Army not to be dragged in politics
To a question, Shehbaz Sharif said the army should not be dragged in politics. “Army is the institution of 220 million and not of a certain group. It has given a lot of sacrifices for the country. It should not be dragged into politics,” he said.
When asked about the appointment of new army chief on the expiry of the tenure of incumbent Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa in this November, the premier said this question was a premature at this stage.
To a question on anti-America narrative being taken up by Imran Khan, PM Shehbaz said said: “The US is a superpower and we want relations with it on equal terms. There is no room for an anti-US narrative. Imran is not an Einstein that the nation should follow him on everything.”
About his trip to Saudi Arabia and the UAE, Mr Shehbaz said: “It is unfortunate that whenever a ruler goes to countries like Saudi Arabia, it is expected he goes there to beg [for money].”
He castigated Imran Khan for irritating Beijing, saying: “On CPEC, the Imran government annoyed China immensely. I am soon planning to visit China to renew efforts to revive CPEC,” he said.
Nawaz’s return and Imran’s protest
The premier also dispelled the impression that his government was making any effort to provide relief to former premier and his elder brother Nawaz Sharif who has been in ‘self-exiled’ in London since November 2019.
”The court will decide the cases of Nawaz Sharif,” he maintained.
To a question about the possible return of Nawaz since his party had come to power in the country, the PM said: “Nawaz Sharif will return to Pakistan after the completion of his medical treatment.”
The prime minister was also categorical with regard to Imran Khan’s protest plan.
“We will not allow Imran or anyone to create anarchy in the country. Any of his (Imran) unconstitutional and unlawful acts will be dealt strictly.”
In reply to a question whether corruption cases were being instituted against Imran and his party men, the premier said: “Let me make it clear we have no word of ‘victimisation’ in our dictionary, but the law will take its course.”
Published in Dawn, May 9th, 2022