PTI chairman and former prime minister Imran Khan has distanced himself from his chief of staff Shahbaz Gill's controversial remarks aired on ARY News earlier this month, admitting that they were "wrong" and should not have been uttered.
Gill was arrested last week at Banigala Chowk in the capital after a video clip of his controversial remarks, aired on ARY News, went viral on social media. Later in the day, he was booked on charges of sedition and inciting the public against the state institutions. He is currently incarcerated in Adiala Jail in Rawalpindi.
In an interview with journalist Fereeha M Idrees on GNN News today, Imran said: "He [Gill] shouldn't have said it because it falls under instigating the army [...] it is completely right [...] we want to see army as a strong institution."
However, the PTI chief contended that statements against the establishment were also passed by coalition government leaders Maulana Fazlur Rehman, Maryam Nawaz, Ayaz Sadiq, Nawaz Sharif and others in the past.
"But what happened with them?"
Imran said he was "extremely upset" with the treatment meted out at Gill in prison. "It is extremely painful. I didn't even know this [...] Our lawyers told us that his clothes were stripped off and he was beaten up.
"They are torturing and trying to mentally break him. And they are forcing him to give statements against Imran Khan," the ex-premier alleged, adding that if "Imran has to say something, he will say it himself [...] he doesn't need Shahbaz Gill for that".
He further revealed that Gill was asked about "Imran and Lieutenant General Faiz Hameed's meetings".
Propaganda campaign against PTI
Imran also claimed that everything that happened with Gill was a conspiracy to "scare PTI supporters" and "create an impression that PTI is against the army and martyrs".
"This propaganda campaign was created in the prime minister's cell," he alleged, adding that the closure of ARY News was also part of the conspiracy.
"This is all their plan to shut my supporters," the former prime minister pointed out, continuing that the same was being done with YouTubers who spoke up in support of him.
"Their aim is to make a treason case against us and create misunderstanding between the army and PTI because we are the only party that represents all of the provinces."
Gill’s controversial comments
Earlier this week, the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) issued a show-cause notice to ARY News for airing comments from Gill, that it said were “highly hateful and seditious” remarks tantamount to “incite armed forces towards revolt”.
The notice stated that Gill was invited via a telephonic call for his comments and during his talk with the channel, Gill had alleged that the government was trying to provoke the lower and middle tier of the army against the PTI, saying the families of such “rank and file” support Imran Khan and his party “which is fuelling rage within the government”.
He had also alleged that the “strategic media cell” of the ruling PML-N was spreading false information and fake news to create divisions between PTI chief Imran Khan and the armed forces.
Gill had said the government leaders, including Javed Latif, Defence Minister Khawaja Asif and former National Assembly speaker Ayaz Sadiq, had lambasted the army in the past “and they were at the government positions now”.
“The statement made by the guest on ARY News is a violation of Article 19 of the Constitution as well as Pemra laws. Airing of such content on your news channel shows either weak editorial control on the content or the licensee is intentionally indulged in providing its platform to such individuals who intend to spread malice and hatred against state institutions for their vested interests,” the watchdog stated.
“Dr Gill tried to malign the federal government, claiming the government functionaries are spearheading a campaign through social media cell for propagating anti-army narrative,” the authority said.