• PTI leader claims next COAS’s neutrality already affected due to Nawaz’s involvement
• Rejects Bajwa’s ‘false narrative’ remarks
• Claims resentment within army on the rise

LAHORE: Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan has claimed that President Dr Arif Alvi will “definitely” consult him as soon as the summary for the appointment of next army chief reaches his office.

“President Dr Arif Alvi will definitely consult me on the summary for the appointment of army chief and take a decision as per the law and Constitution. I am head of the party that Dr Alvi belongs to,” he remarked.

Mr Khan’s comments come in the wake of statements by several government figures that only the prime minister enjoys the constitutional authority to appoint an army chief, with no requirement for any consultation, and that the president should play his constitutional role in the process rather than create hurdles.

As PTI is scheduled to resume its long march from Rawalpindi on Nov 26, Mr Khan, while responding to a question about plans for a sit-in in the garrison city, said he would like to maintain the “suspense and reveal my next plan while addressing the masses on Saturday”.

Speaking to a select group of journalists at his Zaman Park residence on Wednesday, the PTI chief claimed the new army chief’s neutrality had already been affected with the involvement of the “convict” PML-N supremo Nawaz Sharif in the process and him having a say in a matter of national security.

“Nawaz Sharif would have sought commitments from whoever they want to appoint that he would push the PTI against the wall and ensure all cases against him are closed.”

He said he had been consistently saying the army chief should be appointed on merit, and clearly stated that PTI would not approach a court following the appointment.

Answering a question, the PTI chairman rejected army chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa’s statement about a “false narrative” around the regime change conspiracy, and asserted the cipher had been presented before the National Security Committee when he was still the premier, and later Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif also discussed it in another meeting of the committee.

The NSC as well as Pakistan’s former ambassador to the US Asad Majeed Khan accepted that the tone of the document was ‘threatening’ and a conspiracy hatched.

After this, he said, the NSC decided to demarche the US ambassador here in Islamabad. “So, how come a ‘false narrative’ was created?” he questioned.

He further said President Alvi had also written a letter to the chief justice of Pakistan about the cipher however there was no development on the subject.

Mr Khan claimed he knew the army very well and that resentment within the institution was on the rise. Although a fake narrative had been built that the establishment helped the PTI come to power, he said, he always believed in the power of people who had elected him.

“I have defeated the whole establishment and an 11-party alliance with public support and will do so again in the next elections,” he maintained confidently.

“I do not know whether the PTI will be given a level-playing field in the next general elections, but I still believe in the power of the people.”

He also commented that the political system in vogue needed a “major surgery” to ensure implementation of the rule of law where every powerful individual was answerable.

To a question about the next general elections, the PTI chief said the nation would definitely go to polls by next October as a worst case scenario.

“The general elections in October will not harm the PTI and its popularity in any way, but the PDM government, an alliance of 11 parties, will continue sinking and face the public wrath during polling,” he remarked.

He said the climax of his long march movement on Nov 26 would be evident of the massive public support for him and his party.

Answering a question about whether he planned to stage a sit-in in Rawalpindi, Mr Khan said he would maintain the “suspense” and reveal it in his address to the “mammoth” gathering of people from across the country.

Replying to a question about a leak of Gen Bajwa and his family’s asset details allegedly from the FBR, the former prime minister said the government had amended the accountability law that made it impossible to catch a white-collar crime.

“If a public-office holder deposits looted money in the accounts of his family members or establishes an offshore company, those stashing the wealth beyond their means cannot be held accountable,” he regretted, adding the onus of proving assets beyond means was no more on a suspect, but the complainant needed to provide all the evidence.

He further claimed the coalition government had ruined the economy and the country was fast heading towards a default, adding the “corrupt” rulers would soon face public wrath in the form of votes against them in the general elections.

“The country’s economy is sinking with the perceived default risk factor touching 105 per cent though the PTI left it at 5pc just eight months ago,” he said and added that terrorism was increasing by 53pc, pushing foreign investment and businesses on the backburner.

Responding to a question about his statement that the alleged ‘US-backed regime change conspiracy’ was behind him, the PTI chairman said a state’s relationship was with another state and not on a personal basis. “I always spoke against the master-slave relationship and wanted that the two sovereign countries meet and deal on an equal footing.”

Mr Khan said he would have convinced the US that Pakistan should purchase cheaper oil from Russia as India did, but his government was toppled through a regime change conspiracy.

Brushing aside the rumours about PTI electables switching loyalties around the general elections, Mr Khan said the nation was fully aware and had condemned the “turncoats” in the by-elections earlier this year. He said this time he would personally award tickets after selecting the candidates.

“The party faced a great setback in 2018 when I sublet the power to some party leaders to select party candidates for the general elections,” he recalled.

Answering a question, Mr Khan regretted that the military spread hatred against the Baloch, and referred to Maj Gen Faisal Naseer’s role during his posting in Balochistan and later his “Dirty Harry” function against the PTI leadership in Islamabad.

Published in Dawn, November 24th, 2022

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