Ready to talk to army chief ‘for betterment of country’: Imran Khan

Published March 3, 2023
PTI chairman Imran Khan. — AFP
PTI chairman Imran Khan. — AFP

Former prime minister Imran Khan on Friday said he was ready to talk to Chief of Army Staff General Asim Munir “for the betterment of the country”, stressing he has “no quarrel with the establishment”.

In a wide-ranging discussion with reporters at his Zaman Park residence in Lahore, he touched upon politics, his ties with the military, his frustration with retired army chief Qamar Javed Bajwa and why he chose not to fly to Islamabad for court hearings.

The remarks come hours after President Arif Alvi announced April 30 as the date for elections in Punjab, a demand the PTI has been pushing.

When asked why he was not speaking to the “establishment” — a euphemism for the military — he said he never had a quarrel with the establishment, and it was Gen Bajwa that “stabbed me in the back”.

He added that even after he lost his government, he spoke to Gen Bajwa for the betterment of the country. “But it was General Bajwa who wanted to crush me,” he said. “But if anyone thinks that I will bend the knee, that cannot happen.”

Imran also criticised the retired general for “delivering a speech against Russia” and demanded that he be “court-martialed for this speech”.

“I am willing to speak to the establishment even now — for the betterment of the country — but if no one is willing to talk, what can I do?” he asked.

He then said that “it seems like the [current] army chief is considering me his enemy”.

He then challenged the incumbent army chief to prove any corruption case against him and his wife.

Speaking about the state of his ties with former Punjab chief minister Parvez Elahi, who recently left PML-Q and joined PTI, he said the establishment lacked an understanding of politics. “They tried their best to make Chaudhry Parvez Elahi leave my side.”

“Now we will have to show him loyalty,” Imran added, emphasising that he could not betray anyone.

The comments are the latest in a barrage of criticism for the retired general. Imran had also recently voiced his demand for an internal military inquiry against Gen Bajwa in an interview with Voice of America Urdu, which aired on Feb 10.

‘Threats’

Commenting on the alleged threats to his life, the former premier said a video recording of his was being kept abroad. He has previously referred to the recording which, according to him, contains the names of the “conspirators”. He had said it would be made public if anything happened to him.

At one point in today’s conversation, Imran revealed why he chose to travel to Islamabad for court hearings by road.

He said he got word that there were plans to arrest him from the airport and take him to Balochistan. “I am in danger from those who are supposed to protect me,” Imran said.

He, however, said that going to jail “gets one more votes”.

On whether the forthcoming elections in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Punjab are coming at a time when the national exchequer is rapidly repleting, he suggested that if “general elections are held at once, money will be saved”.

The PTI chairman claimed that the PTI would win the elections despite the “umpires siding with the PDM”.

When asked if he had decided a candidate for Punjab chief minister in light of the upcoming by-polls, Imran said there would be “bloodshed” if he finalises the name right now.

“Even women elected on reserved seats want to be the Punjab chief minister,” Imran said.

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