LONDON: Amid growing conjecture around Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf Chairman Imran Khan’s purported meeting with a senior figure from the security establishment, Punjab Chief Minister Parvez Elahi has said that Mr Khan’s use of the word “neutrals” to describe the military is a thing of the past.
At a press conference in London, where Mr Elahi arrived earlier in the week on a family visit, a reporter asked the PTI coalition partner to explain why Mr Khan criticises the establishment using the term ‘neutrals’, especially when the PML-Q enjoys good ties with the Army.
To this, Mr Elahi said: “This is not an issue. It is a thing of the past and has ended. Now, there is a lot of clarity.”
Though the Punjab chief minister did not elaborate any further, his comments added to speculation about the purported meeting at the Preidency, and the visible change of tone from the party in its aftermath.
Mr Elahi is in London on a family visit, and said he was there to visit his son Moonis’ family as he had not travelled to the United Kingdom in five years.
To a question about whether he is in London to meet Nawaz Sharif, Elahi said: “I have no desire to meet [Nawaz Sharif].” He criticised Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif for “not giving even a penny to DI Khan, Rajanpur” during the floods.
When asked about the interior minister’s warnings to Imran Khan about marching of Islamabad, Mr Elahi said: “Look around, who is in government? In Punjab, there is Imran Khan. He is there in KP, AJK and GB... Rana sahib won’t have space to stand.”
To a question about the prevalence of drugs at university campuses in Punjab, the CM said: “We will bring a new law and create a new force for monitoring. The heads of universities will be held responsible if drugs are found on a campus.”-
When asked to explain the change of tone, PTI leader Fawad Chaudhry did not confirm or deny Mr Khan’s reported meeting with a key establishment figure, but said: “There is a realisation, not just within the PTI but on the other side as well, that there should be political stability in Pakistan — and for this the establishment’s role is important.”
He said: “We [PTI] never critcise the Army, we criticise actions. We have a very good relationship with the Army and it’s never been broken.”
“Our party represents Pakistan’s middle class, and the Army also represents the middle class. We have a lot of support within the Army, we don’t want to do anything to change that.”
He added that “the best thing that can happen is that political parties and the establishment sit together and give each other space”.
“We don’t want to fight, we want reconciliation and we want elections,” he added.
“If the government doesn’t agree to an amicable solution and elections, then we expect the establishment to do it.”
Published in Dawn, October 7th, 2022