PTI Chairman Imran Khan on Wednesday slammed the government for blaming his party for the resurgence in terrorism in the country, saying that the incumbent setup had no “understanding nor interest” when the phenomenon had started to resurface.
Imran made the remarks during a televised address where he talked about terrorism at length and the steps the PTI government took.
The comments also come in the aftermath of the ghastly suicide bombing in Peshawar. On Tuesday, lawmakers at the federal legislature regretted the decision to enter into dialogue with militants and resettle them in the country during the previous PTI regime, calling it a “faulty” move which was “never endorsed” by parliament.
During his address, the PTI chief said that in June 2022, the people of Swat started protesting against a resurgence in terrorism. “I held a meeting in June with KP MNAs and MPAs […] they all feared that this phenomenon is surfacing again.”
“But this government didn’t have any idea what to do nor did they pay any attention to it. When concerns were voiced in June […] they had no understanding nor any interest.”
He said that issue was bound to intensify. “Those holding us responsible: I can answer for what happened when we were in power […] The question is why didn’t it happen during our tenure?”
Imran said that the PTI was in power in KP, the province most ravaged by terrorism, since 2013. “We are responsible for what happened during our tenure. Why are you asking us for an answer when we are not in power?”
At the outset of his address, Imran said that it was “unfortunate” such a big tragedy had happened and that it was being “politically exploited” — an apparent reference to the suicide bombing in Peshawar.
The PTI chairman said that when the PTI came into power, Pakistan facilitated talks between the Afghan Taliban and the United States government.
“Our interest was that peace in Afghanistan would benefit Pakistan. Because the previous Afghan government was not pro-Pakistan, it was pro-India […] then we tried to get the Afghan government and the Taliban to sit down which we failed in.”
Imran said that he began to worry after the US announced the date for its withdrawal from Afghanistan in 2021. “I began to worry about a civil war happening and our Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) also gave us a briefing […] there was a fear that the fallout from the civil war would also affect Pakistan.”
Imran said that he did not have any difference with then-army chief Qamar Javed Bajwa and the two were “on the same page”. “This country benefitted when the establishment and the elected government were on the same page […] we were working together on everything.”
However, the first difference rose when Bajwa, after being given an extension, asked the government to step back from pursuing accountability and to change the anti-graft watchdog. “Basically to give an NRO, which I refused.”
He said that the second thing the two differed over was former ISI chief Faiz Hameed. “I thought that the winter of 2020-2021 would be very difficult for us. I wanted Gen Faiz to remain till the winter.
“Because when you are facing a difficult time, you want your most experienced intelligence chief to remain. I had fears about terrorism then, I talked to Gen Bajwa and told the cabinet too that the winter would be difficult for us.”
However, Imran said, that the Taliban takeover was not bloody, saying that Pakistan would have suffered if things had gone the other way.
At the time, Imran said that Pakistan had good relations with its neighbour. “We wanted a stable government so that terrorism could be prevented in Pakistan.”
But then the regime change operation happened, Imran continued. “There was a meeting prior to our government being removed, Bajwa and the ISI chief — I don’t remember if it was Gen Faiz or Gen Nadeem — but we talked about that now there is a pro-Pakistan government in Afghanistan […] and what should be done about the 30,000 to 40,000 [Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan] fighters.”
“A discussion took place and when we talked, two bureaucrats […] informed us about the risks regarding the settlement of the [Tehreek-i-] Taliban [Pakistan …] it was decided that MNAs from the tribal areas and our security forces would decide how to facilitate and rehabilitate them.”
Imran regretted that the talks could unfortunately not move forward.
Imran doubles down on claims against Zardari
During his address, Imran also doubled down on his claims regarding PPP co-chairperson Asif Ali Zardari being part of a conspiracy to “get rid of him”.
Commenting on the defamation notice sent to him by the PPP, Imran said he was giving thanks as the notice would ensure the former president appeared before a court of law.
When that happens, Imran claimed that the courts would ask Zardari if he even had a reputation to damage in the first place. “Ask the people of Sindh about the system of injustice you have established there.”
Imran called on Zardari to swear on oath on the Holy Quran and divulge “how many people you have gotten killed […] and tell the people what you have done in your past and what kind of terror you have spread in Sindh”.
Doubling down on his earlier claims about Zardari, Imran said that a terrorist group was involved in the conspiracy to kill him. “My information is so solid that I know details about which officers of agencies are with you.”
Imran said there were three plans to assassinate him, explaining that the third was to “assassinate me in the name of terrorism”.
“They will say terrorism is back and a suicide attack happened in which I got killed,” he alleged.