Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah said on Saturday that the recent claims by PML-Q leader Moonis Elahi — about former army chief retired General Qamar Javed Bajwa advising his party to side with PTI during the no-confidence vote in April — had raised “doubts” on the institution’s decision to stay apolitical.
“There should be clarity on this [matter],” he said. “And we have complete faith and the nation has complete faith that our military leadership and the institution — [will remain true] with the public commitment the DG ISPR and DG ISI made; and the institution will continue to serve the nation in that manner.”
The minister’s remarks come days after Moonis, in an interview with journalist Meher Bokhari, said that the then-army chief had asked PML-Q to support former premier Imran Khan during the no-trust vote — which had led to the PTI’s ouster.
“At present, a certain section on social media has been bashing Bajwa sahib without any reason. He is the same Bajwa sahib who had bent the direction of the river’s flow for the PTI,” Moonis had said.
He went on to say that a man “went all out for you (PTI)”, adding that “had he been bad, he wouldn’t have asked us to back Imran”.
When Bokhari sought clarification on whether Gen Bajwa had asked them to support Imran, Moonis elaborated: “When the decision was being taken on which way we have to go, we had received offers from both sides — mian sahiban [Sharif family], the PDM (Pakistan Democratic Movement), as well as the PTI.”
Moonis continued, “I then had a discussion with walid sahib (his father, Punjab Chief Minister Parvez Elahi) and walid sahib had a talk with them (an apparent reference to the military establishment).
“They said, ‘It is my wish that you side with them (PTI)’. Had that man (Gen Bajwa) been bad, why would he have asked us to side with them at that critical juncture … Had that man been that bad and against Khan sahib and the PTI, […] he only had to give a signal at that juncture and we would have gone the other way,” he added.
It is pertinent to mention here that the military’s promise to stay apolitical came before the no-confidence vote. In March, Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) DG Lt Gen Babar Iftikhar had categorically stated that the army had nothing to do with politics and called for avoiding unnecessary discussion and speculation about the army’s alleged involvement in political affairs.
Subsequently, the PTI had started accusing the country’s incumbent rulers of colluding with the US and hatching a regime change conspiracy to topple Imran’s government and blamed the military, which was led by retired Gen Bajwa at the time, for letting the current dispensation in Islamabad go ahead with the alleged conspiracy.
Commenting about Moonis’ statement in a media talk in Lahore today, Sanaullah lauded the PML-Q leader for his remarks but questioned that “what was the need to say all this”.
“I believe that even if this [statement] has resulted in a personal loss to Bajwa sahib […] he has gone now. He has completed his employment period now […] his benefit and loss doesn’t matter now.”
However, Sanaullah contended that the institution had adopted a stance in front of the nation that it had no relation with politics. “It said it had decided last year not to interfere in politics.
“I believe that Moonis’ statement has raised doubts on the institution’s stance,” he said, adding that a clarification was required here.
‘PM Shehbaz to discuss PTI offer with coalition leaders’
Separately, the minister revealed Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif had decided to discuss Imran’s call for talks with coalition leaders in a day or two.
In a speech to the Punjab Parliamentary Party on Friday, Imran had given the federal government an ultimatum to either “sit and talk and give a date for the general elections” or “we will dissolve the assemblies”.
Addressing the matter in his media talk today, Sanaullah said: “Personally, I feel that being a member of a parliamentary democracy, one should never refuse from democracy.”
He stressed that talks between the opposition and the government were extremely important for the progress of politics in the country.
“You can’t move forward without negotiations. In a parliamentary democracy, the opposition and government are like the two wheels of a car […] both have been elected by the government, hence, both should move together and be given space,” he said.
But, the minister claimed that Imran was the only politician in the country who had always been bashing the government and refused to cooperate with them at any cost.