Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif censured his predecessor Imran Khan on Thursday, accusing him of "making naked threats against the country", deeming him "unfit for public office" and warning him against "talking about [the] division of Pakistan".
The prime minister made these remarks in a Twitter post that referred to an interview of Imran with anchorperson Sami Abraham for Bol News programme 'Tajzia' last night during which the PTI chief urged the establishment to make the "right decisions" and warned that if Pakistan were to lose its nuclear deterrence, it would fragment into "three pieces".
In the interview aired Wednesday night, he said the current political situation was a problem for the country as well as the establishment. "If the establishment doesn't make the right decisions then I can assure [you] in writing that [before everyone else] they and the army will be destroyed because what will become of the country if it goes bankrupt," he said.
"Pakistan is going towards a default. If that happens then which institution will be [worst] hit? The army. After it is hit, what concession will be taken from us? Denuclearisation," he said. "If the right decisions aren't made at this time then the country is going towards suicide."
Hours after the interview was broadcast, PM Shehbaz tweeted: "While I am in Turkey inking agreements, Imran Niazi is making naked threats against the country. If at all any proof was needed that Niazi is unfit for public office, his latest interview suffices."
"Do your politics but don't dare to cross limits and talk about [the] division of Pakistan," he warned the PTI chairperson.
In a separate statement shared on the PML-N's Twitter, the premier said Imran's remarks were proof that the PTI chief was "involved in a conspiracy, not politics".
He said Imran was spreading "chaos" due to his "frustration and sick mentality", and that his statement was similar to those of Pakistan's enemies.
"This is not a statement but a conspiracy to spark the fire of anarchy and division in the country," PM Shehbaz said.
"Losing power does not mean that you wage a war against Pakistan, its unity and its institutions," he said, warning Imran not to "attack" the federation and country's institutions. "Don't exceed the limits [defined] by the law and Constitution."
The prime minister said the nation would not accept such "nefarious" plans at any cost and would not let them succeed. He vowed to defeat such "impure" aims.
Earlier, PPP co-chairperson Asif Ali Zardari also condemned Imran's remarks in a late-night statement shared on his party's Twitter.
"No one can talk about fragmenting Pakistan. This is not that language of a Pakistani but that of [Indian PM] Modi," he said.
"Imran Khan, power is not everything in this world. Be brave and learn to do politics standing on your own feet," Zardari berated the PTI chief, saying that the "wish of dividing this country into three pieces cannot be realised until we and our future generations live".
He concluded his statement by saying that "God willing, Pakistan will survive till the Day of Judgement".
The statement said Zardari had instructed the PPP to protest Imran's "impure statement".
'Agenda of anarchy and hate'
In his condemnation in a series of tweets, Railways Minister Khawaja Saad Rafique said Pakistan's nuclear programme was "safer in the hands of those" who started it and carried out nuclear tests — a reference to his party, the PML-N, which leads the incumbent coalition government.
He demanded Imran to elaborate on what right decisions the "army" needed to make.
The minister said the "incompetent PTI's policy of hate, revenge and division had brought the country on the brink of destruction" and alleged that Imran had been "conspiring against democracy since 2011 to come to power".
He said Imran should improve his "manners, behaviour, language and character before advising the army".
Rafique said Imran should leave behind the "agenda of anarchy and hate" and "learn to become a part of the political community before addressing the judiciary and army".
"The day political parties become capable of devising a national agenda, the limit of institutions would be automatically defined," the minister said. "Pakistan, God willing, will remain united. [And] the role of political leadership, judiciary, army and media is important in keeping the country stable," the minister said.
Meanwhile, Planning and Development Minister Ahsan Iqbal claimed that by "right decisions" Imran meant "to bring him back in [the] PM Office".
"What a shame. IK has lost his mind and patriotism in his revenge for losing power," Iqbal tweeted.
'Language of the enemy'
Information Minister Marriyum Aurangzeb also condemned Imran's statement, terming it "hate speech".
"Imran Khan's address [sic] is hate speech and against the Constitution and country, [it is] not freedom of expression," Aurangzeb said, according to her statement posted on the PML-N's Twitter.
She said "dividing the country and, God forbid, talking about breaking it apart is the language of the enemy".
Aurangzeb termed Imran's statement an "attack on the Federation," saying that it was the "enemy who announces an attack on the Federation".
Similarly, Aurangzeb continued, "it is the enemy who talks about institutions' destruction. It is the enemy who talks about the snatching away of nuclear assets".
The information minister said Imran's speech of such a nature should not have been aired on television.
Aurangzeb further commented that the "tongue of the one talking about Pakistan breaking apart will break into pieces".
She said it would be difficult to stop the nation's reaction on Imran's statement and went on to claim that "it is not Imran Khan speaking, but 'foreign funding'".
"The truth has been revealed by the conspirator."
Again terming Imran's remarks an attack on the Constitution, institutions, Pakistan Army and Supreme Court, Aurangzeb said the PTI chief's statement was a "reflection of his sick mentality".
Maryam Nawaz also had choice words to say about the former prime minister's remarks. "I saw fitna Khan's statement at which the entire nation is aggrieved. There is a wave of anger among people and rightly so," she said outside the Islamabad High Court.
She said she would appeal to the government and the prime minister to form a "board of specialists of mental illnesses" who could examine Imran, "whose mental illness is at the final stage of madness". "Such a person roaming freely in Pakistan is dangerous and he has shown it repeatedly," she added.
"I have never seen a person so desperate for power. He has lost his senses over losing power that was never his. He is disheartened over losing a seat that was never his. The mandate was never his and he had snatched it from the people, he snatched it in an unconstitutional, illegal and non-political manner, and people have taken it back in a constitutional manner."
She also spoke about Khan's remarks about the country breaking apart into three pieces. "A man saying such a things, those dreaming of Pakistan breaking into three parts, their party and politics will break into 300 pieces," she added.
Imran's remarks were also discussed in the Senate today, with Senator Asif Kirmani saying that Imran had "bipolar disorder".
"Such patients are treated through electric shocks," the senator said while the opposition protested his statement.
During his address in the house, Law Minister Azam Nazeer Tarar said Imran's remarks had given rise to a "feeling of anxiety" in the country.
He said such a statement could not come from a person who had held the highest public office in Pakistan except when there was a "conspiracy".
"This is the matter of Pakistan's security," he said. "The way the former prime minister has spoken is dangerous for national security."
He reiterated that Imran's statement was "dangerous" and went on to say that Imran had "lost his senses after losing power".
"Pakistan comes first, politics comes after that," he said, adding that the state of Pakistan would not be affected by a change of government.
PPP leader Yousuf Raza Gilani said Imran's statements did not behoove the former prime minister and chief executive of the country.
"To say that the country will break into three pieces, you shouldn't say this as a Pakistani. Then to say that the establishment or the army will be destroyed, [our] enemies say the same. Then to say that the country will go bankrupt and our nuclear assets will also be taken away, we condemn this," he said.
He also said that the PTI should not have resigned from the forum of parliament, stating that the no-confidence move was a democratic and constitutional move.
'Why this hue and cry?'
On the other hand, PTI leader Shahbaz Gill said Imran had been saying for a long time that efforts were under way to weaken the army and questioned why a hue and cry was raised on his recent statement.
"Imran Khan has been saying for long that our army is of utmost importance. There are efforts to weaken the army. If the army is weakened, we will face destruction just like Syria, Iraq and Somalia. If the economy is destroyed how will the army be run? If the army is not strong, who will let [us] have nuclear assets," Gill said. "Why this hue and cry now?" he questioned.
Along similar lines, PTI leader Omar Sarfraz Cheema said in a tweet that Imran and the PTI had always "struggled for institutions' respect and national interest".
On the other hand, he continued, the "Sharif and Zardari gang" was involved in the "attack on Supreme Court, memogate and Dawn leaks".
"The facilitators of the foreign conspiracy are scared of Imran Khan and the establishment's natural alliance on the protection of national interest," Cheema said.