LAHORE: Federal Minister for Railways and Aviation Khawaja Saad Rafique on Sunday claimed that the ‘handlers’ of former prime minister Imran Khan employed carrot and stick tactics in an attempt to create ‘forward blocs’ within the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N).
Addressing a press conference in the provincial capital, Mr Rafique said those who were running the ‘project Imran Khan’ – a tacit reference to the military establishment – approached him and other PML-N leaders with lucrative offers in exchange for the creation of factions in the party.
“We faced worst-ever victimisation during the PTI rule in the centre. Sometimes we were taken out of jails in a bid to make us agree to make forward blocs within the party and get prime slots, including the office of the CM. But we refused and preferred living in detention,” the minister said while alluding to his time in jail in a corruption case.
When asked who targeted the PML-N, Mr Rafique said those who were running the ‘Imran Khan project’ at the time were behind the victimisation of the incumbent ruling party.
Saad Rafique asks why Imran offered another extension to Bajwa if he really regretted the ‘mistake’
The PML-N leader also took a dig at the PTI leadership for admitting that the decision to grant an extension to former army chief Qamar Javed Bajwa was ‘wrong’. He questioned if the PTI chief regretted the mistake of granting an extension then why did he float a proposal to give another extension to Mr Bajwa.
In October, the army spokesperson and ISI chief in a press conference said that retired Gen Bajwa was given a “lucrative offer” by Imran Khan for an extension in his tenure.
The railways minister further criticised Imran Khan and his supporters for taking potshots at the former chief of army staff soon after his retirement. “Since you are admitting your faults daily nowadays, [I want to say] we [PML-N] have no regrets whatsoever,” he said in an apparent reference to the extension to the ex-COAS.
According to the PML-N leader, the PTI wanted to go for early elections because it was unable to rule the two provinces—Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa—where it was in power. “You are only here to create a mess,” he alleged.
Asked why the PDM decided to move a no-confidence motion against the PTI government despite knowing about the worst economic situation, the minister said the PDM didn’t know about the exact situation related to the economy at that time. “When you are out of power, you cannot gauge the gravity of the mess…we were surprised to know… [that it] was much more than we had expected,” he argued.
Asked about amendments made to the NAB law, he said that many in the PDM government, especially the PML-N leaders, were kept in jail unlawfully on the pretext of corruption. The minister said introducing amendments to the NAB laws was not a matter of giving relief to some political parties, as civil servants were also victimised through this “draconian law”.
“It was the NAB that massively destroyed the country’s economy by sending [government] officers and political leaders behind bars. This led to demoralisation of officers, professionals, and business people, forcing them to leave the country. They also shifted their money abroad,” he claimed.
The minister said the NAB was made by the former dictator Pervez Musharraf for the arm-twisting of people, particularly politicians. After his departure, the NAB was used by Imran Khan and his facilitators to victimise their opponents, he claimed.
Due to the NAB, six honest officers of the Pakistan Railways also spent six months in jail and were finally acquitted by the court due to lack of evidence, he said. “That is why we [PDM government] amended the NAB law to protect everybody from all sorts of victimisation and give a boost to the country’s economy,” he added.
Published in Dawn, December 5th, 2022