Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif has termed his predecessor and PTI chief Imran Khan the "biggest liar on the face of the earth", The Guardian reported on Tuesday.
In an interview with the British newspaper, the prime minister addressed Imran's recent alleged cipher audio leaks and said they were "an irrefutable endorsement that he (Imran) is the biggest liar on the face of the earth".
"I’m not saying this with a sense of glee but a sense of embarrassment and concern. My country’s image has been damaged hugely by these lies told out of mean personal interest," he added.
Shehbaz said that Imran would have to be "held accountable for all these conscious criminal acts”, referring to the alleged discussion between Imran and his principal secretary and ministers in the leak of how to use the cypher for political gains.
The prime minister said Imran was "injecting poison into society to dangerously polarise the electorate'" since his ouster through a successful no-confidence vote in April.
"Never before was I concerned about our country’s future,” he was quoted as saying by the report, adding, "Imran Khan has injected [an] infinite amount of poison in this society and made it hugely polarised as never before … he is distorting facts and creating hate."
Economy in 'ruins'
In his first interview with the outlet since he became the premier, Shehbaz termed the PTI chief as a "liar and a cheat", alleging that his policies had left the economy in "ruins".
He also alleged that the PTI chairman managed the country's affairs in a way that benefitted his "own personal agenda" and "in a manner which can be only described as the most inexperienced, self-centred, egotistical [and] immature politician in the history of this country”.
Shehbaz admitted in the interview that he faced "significant challenges" in ruling the country while the PTI chief continued his mass mobilisation campaign for an eventual long march to Islamabad.
The prime minister particularly spoke about Imran's supposed impact on Pakistan's foreign relations, claiming that he was "shocked" at the UN General Assembly session earlier this month when he said many world leaders had complained about the PTI chief's attitude.
"Some leaders told me in person about his personality,” Shehbaz alleged, adding, "they told me he was rude, he told lies and he is a ‘narcissist’, quote unquote.”
Referring to the former prime minister's claim of a US-backed foreign conspiracy that toppled his government through the no-confidence vote, Shehbaz said Imran had hurt Pakistan's relations with the United States "for no rhyme or reason".
The report stated that Shehbaz's administration was "actively working" to repair the country's relations with the US. Yet he also made it clear he would be reaffirming Pakistan’s close relationship with China, the report added.
PM Shehbaz described China as “one of the most trusted friends of Pakistan” in the interview, adding that the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor project was beneficial for the country's wellbeing, as well as the whole region.
On any role of PML-N supremo Nawaz Sharif in the government, the prime minister told the outlet that he consulted his older brother but was given "completely free rein to make decisions”.
Questioned about criticism of the PML-N for dynastic politics, PM Shehbaz "vehemently rebuffed" it and said it was not a matter of dynasty. "It’s about competence, it’s about public support [and] it’s about people’s trust,” he was quoted as saying by the report.