• Says ‘no system’ available for early polls on their call
• Alleges CEC is playing as PTI chief’s rival
• Ex-PM accuses Bajwa of playing ‘double game’

LAHORE: Days after his son Moonis Elahi made a similar statement, Punjab Chief Minister Parvez Elahi on Sunday said that former army chief Gen Qamar Bajwa had nudged the PML-Q to support PTI Chairman Imran Khan.

Mr Elahi’s remarks come on the heels of Imran Khan’s accusation a day earlier that Gen Bajwa was playing a “double game”. In an interview to Bol News on Saturday, Mr Khan said he had committed a “big mistake” by granting Gen Bajwa an extension and accused the former army chief of engaging in “double games”, double speak, mixed messages and more. He alleged that Gen Bajwa had denied everything when asked about the establishment’s contact with the then opposition.

However, Mr Elahi, while speaking during an interview with Bol News programme Tajzia on Sunday, appeared less confident about early polls.

The CM acknowledged that “there is no system available under which we call for general elections and they happen before time”.

He further said that the “(PDM government) has its tenure until next August and [it is to be seen] how prudently it will tread in these critical times”.

“It will be good if general elections are held early but there is a need that they (PDM government) should agree and even bigger issue is that the chief election commissioner is playing as Imran Khan’s rival,” he added.

In reply to a question, the chief minister said that Moonis Elahi had also expressed a desire to side with PTI. “God changed our path in the last moments and sent Bajwa sahib to show us the way. When I expressed my concerns about the Sharifs and told him that I don’t trust them then Bajwa sahib said, ‘You should proceed carefully and the path going towards Imran is better for you and your friends,’” Mr Elahi claimed without specifying if his interaction with the former COAS occurred prior to the no-confidence move against then PM Imran Khan or at the time of the Punjab chief minister’s election.

Notwithstanding Mr Elahi’s take on the timing of the elections, Mr Khan is campaigning and pushing the PDM government to call early elections and has lately hurled clear warning that he will be dissolving Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa assemblies and take 66 per cent of Pakistan to the polls. On Saturday, he gave the PDM government an ultimatum of four to five days to decide whether it agrees to dissolve all assemblies and call general elections maximum by the end of March next.

About the new army set-up, the chief minister said the institution was now openly saying it would not interfere in politics and instead ensure the elections are held in a free and fair manner. “Holding of free and fair elections will give us an edge because the Punjab government has delivered by taking massive measures for the betterment of the people of Punjab.

“We are having smooth and cordial relations with the army since 1983 as well as judiciary,” he said.

The chief minister said the Sharifs were not trustworthy and they had “ditched” him for at least five times as well as different former army chiefs, including Gen Musharraf and Gen Jahangir Karamat. He said Imran Khan was the only leader who had created fear in Sharifs.

‘Imran’s big mistake’

In his interview on Saturday, Mr Khan said he had committed a “big mistake” by granting Gen Bajwa an extension. He said extensions should not be given in the military but the “situation was otherwise and they had no option”.

He accused the former army chief of engaging in “double games”, double speak, mixed messages and more, adding that Gen Bajwa had denied everything when asked about the establishment’s contact with the then opposition.

When asked on claims by Moonis Elahi that they had supported PTI on the directives of Gen Bajwa during the no-trust motion, Mr Khan replied it was his greatest weakness to trust Gen Bajwa. “We received different signals but they claimed to be neutral and assured they wanted continuity,” he said.

He said instructions were sent that bringing his government down will lead to economic instability. Instead, he claimed, the PTI’s allies told him that a message was received “to switch over to the other side.”

Mr Khan recalled that he eventually sent a message [to Bajwa] that he will go to the public and seek their support. “I asked them on which side they were. I told them that if they were on the other side, then I will have a different strategy,” he added.

Regarding the situation of PTI Senator Azam Swati, Mr Khan said he was disappointed that no action was taken by the court. He said judiciary should look at the injustice and take notice as people have trust in them.

He said they had approached the Supreme Court regarding the case of Azam Swati, Arshad Sharif’s murder and assassination attack on him.

Message to establishment

Mr Khan said a message has been sent to the new military establishment and President Alvi has delivered their message. “What happened in the past seven months? Did the party crash? Today we have such support that no other party ever enjoyed in history. Even Bhutto didn’t have the kind of support we have today,” he claimed.

He reiterated that CM Elahi had given him the authority to dissolve the assembly. However, he did not answer whether a written summary had been given to him by the chief minister.

When asked about attempts by PPP leader Asif Ali Zardari to control the situations, he said the “game” is no longer in the hands of Zardari as Chaudhry Parvez Elahi stood with the PTI.

Published in Dawn, December 5th, 2022

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