ISLAMABAD: Former prime minister Imran Khan on Thursday questioned the “all-powerful” military establishment for its failure to stop the “crooks” from coming into power after the ouster of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) government in April while urging “neutrals” — a euphemism he uses for the establishment — to “review” their decisions.

Addressing a seminar on media freedom in Islamabad, the PTI chairman said, “I always thought our establishment cared more about this country and they would not let such a thing happen.”

The ex-PM said he had always thought the military establishment would act against corruption because throughout his struggle, the establishment and the the premier intelligence agency in particular, used to tell him about the corruption of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz and the Pakistan Peoples Party. Imran Khan claimed the establishment told him how Suleman Shehbaz, son of the incumbent premier, went to China to ask for alleged kickbacks.

Mr Khan said the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) was “not in my control” and added that he could not comprehend why the incumbent rulers were not behind bars even though the cases against them were “mature”. “There was a helping hand of someone who would press the accelerator and undo it as per their wish… we would just look on and take the flak for the actions of NAB … If NAB was in my control, I would have retrieved Rs15 to Rs20 billion from them [corrupt politicians],” he claimed.

Ex-PM urges ‘neutrals’ to reconsider their decision, says history would not forgive them

The PTI chairman said everyone from army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa to President Arif Alvi knew about the US cipher and the threat made by US official Donald Lu, but “I am surprised that even when it was known that there was a foreign conspiracy [to remove Imran Khan as the PM] … and it was also known that crooks facing corruption charges were going to replace [Imran Khan] … then how were they allowed to be imposed on the country.”

The former premier said only the establishment could have stopped this because they were the “most powerful” institution and “with power comes responsibility”. “It cannot be the case that power lies with someone else and responsibility with another… authority and power are interlinked,” Mr Khan said as he blamed the establishment for not doing more.

‘Review decision’

“No matter how many times you call yourself neutral, history will blame you for what you did with the country,” Imran Khan said, adding that first things were allowed to rule the country and now there were efforts to disqualify him. The PTI chief said there was still time for “neutrals to “review their policies” as “decisions taken behind closed doors” were not always beneficial for the country. “You should review and think that there are 220 million people in this country” more than half of the population comprising youth who needed jobs.

Imran Khan said only free and fair elections guaranteed stability in the country rather than foreign loans as they would eventually translate into higher debt servicing. He said that he should not be considered “anti-American” just because he refused to provide bases to the US in Pakistan and added he had taken the decision in the interest of Pakistan.

Shehbaz, Marriyum flay Imran

In a tweet, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif accused Imran Khan of “distorting facts”. “This is what self-righteousness does to you: you consider yourself holy & above reproach despite flawed conduct in office. You confuse people by distorting facts. You play mind games & insult their intelligence through deceitful ways. Niazi’s speech today was nothing but this.”

Mr Khan was also bashed by Information Minister Marriyum Aurangzeb who took him to the task for the “anti-media” policies during the PTI regime. In a statement shared by the state-run APP, Marriyum said Imran Khan should be arrested for snubbing the investigation notice in the prohibited funding case.

Published in Dawn, August 19th, 2022

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