LAHORE: Defence Minister Khawaja Asif claimed on Monday that the establishment had tried to cut a deal with the PML-N before the 2018 elections on ‘certain matters’, but Nawaz Sharif did not agree and as a result Imran Khan was brought to power.
“The ‘Imran model’ was kept in a laboratory. They (establishment) tried their best to cut a deal with the then PML-N government on certain matters ahead of the 2018 vote, but Nawaz Sharif did not agree. Had Nawaz said yes, there would have been no Panama case and judicial verdicts against him (Nawaz),” Mr Asif said while addressing a seminar here on Monday.
The minister also indirectly talked about the establishment’s offer to Shehbaz Sharif of becoming prime minister.
“Shehbaz Sharif stood with his elder brother and did not leave him and his party (by rejecting the establishment’s offer). Had he (Shehbaz) compromised, there was a possibility that this (Imran) model would not have been tried in 2018. But perhaps the honour which we earned today might not have been there (in case of accepting the offer),” he said.
Former interior minister Chaudhry Nisar, who was very close to Nawaz Sharif till his ouster by the apex court in 2017 in the Panama Papers case, had ‘categorically cautioned’ him not to pick up fights with the powerful military establishment over certain matters.
The relationship between the two friends turned sour as Mr Sharif reportedly followed the advice of the party hardliners like his daughter Maryam Nawaz and old confidant Pervaiz Rashid.
Khawaja Asif further said Imran Khan had lied that the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) was under the control of Gen Qamar Bajwa and he was helpless.
“The whole PML-N leadership was jailed at the behest of Imran Khan and this decision was taken by Mr Khan and not Bajwa,” he said.
The minister said the establishment would have now tasted the outcome of its (Imran model) experiment. “Those who brought this man (Imran) to power have realised now their mistake. He (Imran) is hurling abuses at his benefactors. They (establishment) too would have realised their worth,” he commented and added Imran Khan was not sincere with anyone... be it his country, family or supporters.
The minister made it clear that the federal coalition would not go into early polls come what may.
“I was in favour of calling fresh elections soon after the ouster of Imran Khan through a vote of no-confidence. But since we have lost our political capital during the last eight months, therefore, there is no question of going into snap elections. We will try to regain our political capital and the elections will be held on time. We will not be blackmailed on this matter let me make it clear,” he declared.
Mr Asif said he would forward a recommendation to his party leadership regarding acceptance of resignations of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf MNAs.
“The PTI MNAs resignations should be accepted and elections be held on the vacant seats and this should go on till the tenure of our government is completed,” he said and dared Imran Khan to dissolve the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly where he had no issue like Punjab.
The minister said the elite including politicians, establishment, judiciary, bureaucracy and media were responsible for the current situation of the country. “All of them will have to sit together to find a solution to the problems the country is facing today,” he suggested.
About ‘temporary’ disappearance of PTI leader Shahbaz Gill from Lahore’s hospital where he had been under treatment,
Mr Asif said: “When Shehbaz Gill came to know that the chief minister had been de-notified by the governor he left the hospital only to return after his (CM) restoration by the court.”
Published in Dawn, December 27th, 2022