• Says ‘bugging of offices’ would make world leaders apprehensive
• Claims Imran’s ‘arrogance isolated Pakistan’ globally
• Rules out talks with opposition over COAS appointment

ISLAMABAD: Days after the controversial leaks of informal conversation in the Prime Minister House surfaced and stirred up a political firestorm, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif termed it a serious ‘security lapse’ and said a high-powered inquiry committee would probe the fiasco.

Addressing a press conference on Tuesday, Mr Sharif said that foreign dignitaries would be apprehensive and uncomfortable if official buildings were bugged.

“This is not my issue alone, but it is a matter of the dignity of 22 million people of Pakistan.”

Clarifying his position on the previous leak about facilitating import of machinery from India for Maryam Nawaz’s son-in-law, the prime minister said Ms Nawaz had never asked for any favour for herself or her son-in-law.

“Half of the sugar mills’ machinery was imported from India during the PTI’s government,” he said, adding since the matter pertained to India, the previous government did not even take it up in cabinet meetings.

He said that rules allow him as a prime minister to approve such a trade, but he did not do it.

Replying to the criticism by PTI Chairman Imran Khan, the prime minister said the party and its leader raised no questions over leaked audios that provided clear evidences about Mr Khan and his wife receiving diamonds and properties as bribe in exchange for the transfer of £190 million sent back by the UK’s National Crime Agency.

‘Imran’s arrogance isolated Pakistan’

Briefing the media about this interaction with foreign leaders during the (SCO) summit, the 77th session of the UN General Assembly and his visit to the UK, Mr Sharif claimed that the country ‘has come out of isolation’ caused by the “arrogance” of former prime minister Imran Khan.

“I met a number of world leaders during my visits and all complained about his [Mr Khan’s] arrogance. He pretends to be a monarch and sit crossed legged in front of world leaders,” he said.

Mr Sharif said in his meetings with Chinese President Xi Jinping, Russian President Vladimir Putin, Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi and other world leaders, he had highlighted the damages caused by floods.

Besides expressing their solidarity, world leaders have assured complete cooperation to mitigate the sufferings of flood-hit people, Mr Sharif said.

He presented a charge sheet against the PTI chairman, calling him a ‘serious threat to the country’.

“Whatever we are facing today is because of NAB-Niazi gath jore (connivance). This man [Mr Khan] has become a threat to the country.”

The prime minister said Mr Khan had destroyed the country’s economy and brought it at the brink of default.

He referred to the Toshakhana case against the former prime minister, saying that Mr Khan ‘misused and sold gifts he had received from foreign heads of state.

He also claimed that the Khan-led PTI government had exported wheat at cheaper rates and favoured real estate tycoon Malik Riaz by giving him back the money.

“I have not seen such a liar, corrupt and selfish man in my whole life,” the prime minister passed these remarks against Imran Khan.

The prime minister said the PTI’s upcoming long march poses no threat to the incumbent government.

Ruling out the possibility of early polls, Mr Sharif said he was an elected prime minister and that next general elections will be held on their scheduled time.

He blamed Mr Khan for ‘destroying the social fabric of the country’ by promoting hatred and hooliganism.

The prime minister referred to the heckling of Minister of Information Marriyum Aurangzeb at a roadside coffee shop and said the PTI workers misbehave and teased the minister.

No consultation over COAS appointment

The prime minister also touched upon the appointment of new chief of army staff, saying that no consultation will be done over the issues with Mr Khan. He also rejected the offer mediation propounded by President Arif Alvi.

“Did Imran Khan take the then opposition into confidence when he had extended the term of the incumbent army chief [General Qamar Javed Bajwa],” he asked.

He said Mr Khan and his followers tried to make draw wedge within the ranks and file of the army and humiliated martyred officers.

He also censured Mr Khan for labeling the current government ‘imported,’ and said if his government came into power through America intervention, why did the Russian President Vladimir Putin met him in on the sidelines of the SCO summit.

Replying to a question about the return of PML-N leader Ishaq Dar and taking over the position of finance minister, the prime minister said Mr Dar has a long experience running economic affairs.

Calling former finance minister Miftah Ismail an asset of the party, the prime minister said Mr Ismail’s services will use for another job.

Responding to a question over the gathering addressed by PTI chairman in Lahore’s Government College University, the prime minister said the government will take stern action against the vice chancellor of varsity for organising a public meeting within the institute’s premises.

In response to the question about PML-N supremo Nawaz Sharif’s return to Pakistan, the prime minister said he will be back soon.

Published in Dawn, September 28th, 2022

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