Former prime minister Imran Khan has called for an internal military inquiry against former army chief retired General Qamar Javed Bajwa for his alleged “admission” about being involved in the PTI government’s ouster.
In an interview with Voice of America Urdu aired on Friday (today), Imran once again said: “The PML-N, PDM (Pakistan Democratic Movement) and the establishment are all standing on one side … they all together removed our government and Gen Bajwa has admitted to the regime change since he has given his statement to a journalist about for what reasons the government was removed.”
Imran claimed that policies set in place by the former army chief were still continuing.
Imran was referring to Gen Bajwa’s remarks published in a column by Javed Chaudhry from a day ago in his interview. In it, Bajwa said his “crime” was not stepping in to save Imran’s government. He was also quoted as saying that “these people (the PTI) were dangerous for the country”.
“Now he has himself said that he ousted the government because, according to whatever he said, there was a danger to the country,” Imran reiterated.
When asked about the army chief’s acknowledgement of the military’s involvement in politics, Imran said: “There should be an internal army inquiry against him for the statements that he proudly and arrogantly gave that ‘I made the decision because the country’s conditions were such’, as if he was some economic expert.”
He said the army should internally reflect on what happened as a result, adding that distance was created between the people and the establishment.
“The whole nation [already] thought that the government was ousted because of Gen Bajwa, but he himself admitted it, so now he lifted the veil from the people’s suspicion and it became clear for them that the army chief removed the government.”
Chaudhry claimed that he had asked the former army chief, “why did you overthrow Imran Khan’s government?” to which Gen Bajwa allegedly answered: “We did not overthrow his government. Our only crime was that why we did not save his government. Imran wanted us to step in and save his government.”
Chaudhry said he then told Bajwa that he should have done so since “you have been doing this before as well” to which the former army chief was quoted as saying it would have been the “most suitable” option for him if he was looking after his own “interest”.
“I would have kept supporting Imran Khan and would have respectfully retired after bidding him farewell but I sacrificed my image for my country. I took the correct but difficult decision,” Chaudhry quoted the former army chief as saying.
The columnist said he quizzed Bajwa on how that was the correct decision to which the latter said: “Our reading was that these people were dangerous for the country. If they remain then the country won’t remain.” He goes on to explain that the ex-PM allegedly used a Punjabi word for the Saudi crown prince.
The column claimed that according to Gen Bajwa, one of Imran’s own federal ministers related this to the Saudi envoy who then began getting the word translated by different people.
In another example, the column claimed that Gen Bajwa said: “We kept stopping them from trying to make Shaukat Tarin the finance minister. I told the prime minister: ‘Sir he (Tarin) couldn’t run his own bank, he will tank the economy,’ but he was not convinced.
“There was a Rs8 billion corruption case against Shaukat Tarin in NAB (National Accountability Bureau). Conversely, the prime minister asked us to finish this case. We were stuck with the FATF (Financial Action Task Force) and IMF (International Monetary Fund) so we were forced and thus Lt-Gen Faiz Hameed got Shaukat Tarin’s NAB case quashed.”
The column further claimed that the former army chief said: “I got a phone call from State Bank of Pakistan governor Reza Baqir and he was very worried. According to him, Shaukat Tarin had heated up the economy and dollar reserves were fast decreasing and ‘we need your intervention’.
“Thus we were forced to go to the prime minister and Hammad Azhar, Asad Umar, Shaukat Tarin and Reza Baqir were also present in this meeting. I asked the prime minister: ‘Sir you are collecting 53 per cent tax from customs. This is wrong. We will get trapped,’ but he (Imran) said: ‘This is a good thing. Tax revenue is increasing,’ to which I said: ‘Sir you are collecting rupees by sending dollars abroad. The country will not be able to continue this way. You should stop Shaukat Tarin otherwise we will default.’
“Reza Baqir supported this and the prime minister agreed but did nothing practically. Asad Umar thanked me after the meeting and said: ‘You are correct. We ended up on the wrong track. We should have done the things you told us today in the past.’ You can ask Asad Umar if I’m saying anything wrong.”
In his last public address as the army chief in November, Gen Bajwa had acknowledged that the army for seven decades had “unconstitutionally interfered in politics”. He had said that the military’s interference in the political sphere by the military continued till February 2021 after which the military thoroughly deliberated on the matter and decided to stay out of politics.
‘Devastating and against Pakistan’s sovereignty’
Responding to Chaudhry’s column during a press conference in Lahore, PTI Vice President Fawad Chaudhry said that the “confession” from Gen Bajwa was “devastating and against Pakistan’s sovereignty”.
Regarding the part about quashing Tarin’s case, he said it was a “serious intervention in Pakistan’s judicial system”.
On the column’s claims about economic matters and issues, the PTI leader said: “Which country’s army chief deals with the state bank’s governor or the finance minister’s approach? … you are not an economic expert.”
He added that the “confessions” made in the column had “completely destroyed the incumbent government’s legitimacy” and reiterated that the country’s only solution to the ongoing crises was a new election.