• Ex-PM says former army chief used him as ‘punching bag’; blames him for prevailing crises
• PTI chief says ‘conspiracy’ which removed him from power ‘exported’ from Pakistan to US
• Alleges Sharifs, Zardari want him disqualified
LAHORE: After months of allegations, former prime minister Imran Khan has given a clean chit to the United States and instead held former army chief Qamar Javed Bajwa responsible for the ‘conspiracy’ which resulted in his ouster via a no-confidence motion in April last year.
The PTI chairman made these remarks during an interview with the Voice of America English aired on Saturday and a separate televised address on Sunday. On both occasions, the former premier took swipes at the ex-chief of army staff, who, according to Imran Khan, was the source of all the crises plaguing Pakistan today.
“Whatever happened, now as things unfold, it wasn’t the US who told Pakistan [to oust me]. It was unfortunately, from what evidence has come up, [former army chief] Gen [Qamar Javed] Bajwa who somehow managed to tell the Americans that I was anti-American. And so, it [the plan to oust me] wasn’t imported from there. It was exported from here to there,” Mr Khan told VoA in a sharp U-turn from his previous position of blaming the US.
In the televised address, Imran Khan termed Gen Bajwa, who retired in November last year, ‘super king’ and admitted that his three-and-a-half-year stint in the Prime Minister’s Office was more like of a puppet.
“Gen Bajwa had become an expert of everything, including economy, politics, and foreign policy,” Mr Khan alleged.
“Gen Bajwa used to get the credit for good decisions and Imran Khan used to serve as a punching bag for every wrong decision,” Mr Khan claimed, alleging that the former army chief was responsible for the “political and economic ills” faced by the country today.
Imran Khan also slammed the former chief for hampering the process of accountability. The PTI chairman claimed Mr Bajwa had decided that there would be no accountability of Shehbaz Sharif as he had already taken a decision to elevate him as the prime minister. “No accountability was held thereafter,” he said and claimed that the former army chief had also acknowledged this in an interview with a columnist.
“If Bajwa could be criticised or [held] accountable for his actions, he would not have been able to damage the country to such an extent,” he added.
‘Elections only solution’
During the address, Imran Khan doubled down on his demand for elections in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa following the dissolution of provincial assemblies. He believed that only fresh elections could drive Pakistan out of the current economic and political mess.
According to the PTI chief, the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) and the incumbent caretaker government were duty-bound to hold general elections in Punjab and KP within 90 days of the dissolution of the assemblies. “On the 91st day, the caretaker governments will cease to have constitutional cover,” he said, asking the bureaucrats and police officers to disobey the ‘unconstitutional caretaker government’ after the end of its three-month timeframe.
Mr Khan alleged that the Sharifs and Zardaris were afraid of elections as they first wanted to create a “level-playing field” by disqualifying him from contesting elections and then putting him in jail along with his party leadership.
“The ruling coalition in the federal government is afraid of one person and one party, which is Imran Khan and PTI, and wants to block us to get their NRO given to them by Gen Bajwa,” he alleged.
The former premier also went after the ECP and said the electoral watchdog was taking decisions on the “instructions of PML-N supremo Nawaz Sharif”.
‘Stand with judges’
Claiming that the ‘mafias’ would now try to ‘pressurise the judiciary’, Mr Khan urged the nation to be ready to stand with the judges in these “trying times” as he linked the survival of the country with the supremacy of the rule of law.
“Statements have already started pouring in against the judiciary after its verdict directing the ECP to hold elections within 90 days,” he stated. It may be mentioned here that a single-member bench of the Lahore High Court has asked the ECP to consult the Punjab governor to ensure elections in Punjab are to be held in the constitutional timeframe.
Speaking about the IMF deal, Mr Khan said the government’s agreement with the Fund would open floodgates of inflation and push millions of people down the poverty line. Asserting that the Pakistan was rapidly growing in economic terms, the former prime minister said the IMF had in Feb 2022 – only six weeks before PTI government’s ouster – acknowledged that Pakistan’s economy was making record progress.
In the past 10 months, the PDM government has “shattered the economy” and almost every person has lost one-third of their income due to an increase in inflation owing to the wrong policies of the incumbent rulers, he added. “Who is responsible for shattering the economy showing robust improvement,” he asked.
‘Failure of security forces’
Talking to VoA, Imran Khan said international relationships should not be based on “personal egos” but on the interest of the country’s people. He was responding to questions about his approach towards the US upon a possible return to power and his allegations about the country’s involvement in his ouster.
“The people of Pakistan, their interest is that we have [a] good relationship with the US,” he said, explaining that it was a superpower and Pakistan’s biggest trading partner.
The PTI chairman blamed the “negligence” of Pakistan’s security forces and intelligence agencies for the rising incidents of terrorism in the country.
Published in Dawn, February 13th, 2023
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