Imran wants ‘apolitical’ military to help stabilise economy

Published December 12, 2022
PTI Chief Imran Khan gestures during a news conference on Sunday. —DawnNewsTV
PTI Chief Imran Khan gestures during a news conference on Sunday. —DawnNewsTV

LAHORE: Despite the former army chief stressing in his farewell address that the institution had decided to stay away from politics, Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) Chair­man Imran Khan on Sunday urged the establishment indirectly to facilitate early elections as he believed the country was fast heading towards a default.

“I have expectations from the new (army) set-up that the national security institutions will take into account this serious situation of the country’s economy on a downward spiral,” he remarked. Mr Khan has on several occasions said only political stability can ensure economic stability.

Speaking to the media at his Zaman Park residence, the PTI chief reiterated his claim that the country was heading towards an “economic disaster” and only fresh general elections could drive it out of this crisis.

To a question if it was constitutionally wise to invite the state institutions to intervene, Mr Khan narrated various steps of the incumbent government asking whether they were constitutional.

Acknowledges ‘Q’ is right early polls should be ensured before dissolving assemblies

Moreover, acknowledging the advice of his allies in Punjab, the PML-Q leadership, to ensure early elections are held before dissolving the Punjab and Khyber Pakhtun­khwa assemblies, the PTI chief observed he was aware that if and when the legislatures were dissolved, the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) — that he deems biased towards the federal government — would appoint a caretaker government, the Centre appoint its own police chief and begin committing excesses against his party. “The PML-Q’s point is right,” he added.

Mr Khan was referring to the statement of PML-Q leader Moonis Elahi, who had a day earlier said there was no conflict between the PTI and PML-Q on the dissolution of the Punjab Assembly, adding it would be done in the blink of an eye, if the PTI chief can ensure elections in the province soon afterwards. “The decision to dissolve the Punjab Assembly should be prudent [and take into consideration] the prevailing ground realities,” Moonis had told Dawn on Saturday.

Mr Khan, however, also said on Sunday that he would finalise preparations this month and follow his earlier decision to quit the two provincial assemblies. He said Chief Minister Chaudhry Parvez Elahi had given him full authority to dissolve the Punjab Assembly any time.

Furthermore, he said he always knew PML-N supreme leader Nawaz Sharif and PPP leader Asif Ali Zardari would never accept early elections, fearing their arrest in corruption cases. “They don’t have any interest in Pakistan,” he maintained. “The delay in fresh elections will not affect me or the PTI, but the country and its people.”

The PTI chief said the two politicians wanted to have their corruption cases closed in light of “NRO-II” given by “a powerful man”, whom he had a day earlier identified as former army chief retired Gen Qamar Bajwa.

He regretted PML-N Vice President Maryam Nawaz, Finance Minister Ishaq Dar and Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah were being acquitted in corruption cases and other charges “under NRO-II”. Now, he added, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif’s son Suleman had returned home to get “dry-cleaned”.

Mr Khan alleged that the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) government had posted its “own men” as heads of the National Accountability Bureau and Federal Investigation Agency and was all out to destroy these institutions. Expressing his apprehensions, Mr Khan claimed these two state institutions had been tasked with digging out cases against him to get him disqualified. He also claimed the chief election commissioner was working on a “one-point agenda” of disqualifying him and denting the PTI.

“Will this nation vote for someone other than the PTI if I don’t officially remain head of the party?”

The PTI chief also explained in detail the deteriorating condition of the country’s economy through numbers. He said all economic indicators were posting negative signs, including the GDP growth rate, a decline in exports reflecting less dollars flowing into Pakistan and pressure on the rupee increasing, as it was not available in the open market at Rs250 though the official rate was Rs224. The dollar was priced at Rs178 when the PTI government was toppled through the vote of no-confidence under a “regime change conspiracy”, he claimed.

When his party was in government, Khan said, the large scale industry was growing at 27.7 per cent propelling wealth creation, but now it had fallen to a shameful 0.4pc.

“Why will investors come to Pakistan and install large scale industries when their dollars are already growing and they know that any investment in Pakistan will go down the drain?” he questioned.

Mr Khan also strongly rebuked media houses that he claimed were harping on about “inflation” during the PTI government when the country was facing an international crisis of short supply of petroleum products.

“Now the petroleum prices in the international market have gone down from $115 per barrel to $80 per barrel, the current inflation rate has soared to 24pc as compared to almost half -- 12.5pc – when the PTI was in power,” explained Mr Khan.

Visibly jittery over reports of the sale of a wristwatch gifted to him by Saudi Crown Prince Muhammad Bin Salman, the former premier said media was now busy with the wrist watch stories. “It was my watch, whether I sell it or not,” he exclaimed, and shunned the so-called propaganda around it.

To a question, Mr Khan said he would check who was behind the registration of a case against party leader Shahbaz Gill at a police station near Lahore. He also strongly chided the PDM government for the allegedly inhumane torture unleashed against party Senator Azam Swati.

Meanwhile, PTI Secretary General Asad Umar has notified that party senior leader Dr Shireen Mazari would coordinate and manage relationships with the international media and organisations besides her present responsibilities assigned by the party.

Published in Dawn, December 12th, 2022

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