PTI Chairman Imran Khan said on Thursday that he doesn’t “need the establishment”, adding that he was willing to talk with everyone except “thieves”.
In an interview with BBC Urdu, the premier said that he only wanted elections to be held in the country as per the law and the Constitution, adding that he was willing to speak to anyone in this regard but did not need “crutches”.
“I was asked if I would speak to the establishment if they wanted to talk. I said I’m a political person, I will talk to everyone except thieves,” Imran said, an apparent reference to the coalition government.
The publication reported the PTI chairman as saying that he never invited Chief of Army Staff General Asim Munir or Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif to sit down for talks.
“A statement has been circulating that I want to talk to the army chief [but] I don’t need the establishment.”
Imran further said that a political party that enjoyed the support of the people did not need “crutches”.
Asked whether the establishment’s attitude towards him had changed after the change in the military command, the ex-premier told the publication that “it didn’t make any difference to us.”
He said that cases against the PTI were made during the tenure of former army chief General (retired) Qamar Javed Bajwa. “Prior to this, such custodial torture was never inflicted on senior people.
“We had thought it would change when the new army chief would come but there has been no change and [our difficulties] have increased,” he said.
Imran’s remarks comes days after PTI’s Fawad Chaudhry clarified that the ex-premier had never made any request to meet with COAS Munir, terming “speculations in this regard as baseless”.
The statement was issued after senior journalist Kamran Khan tweeted about Gen Munir telling the country’s business community that he had sent a message to Imran through President Dr Arif Alvi for meeting the prime minister which the PTI chairman did not agree to.
Kamran, however, claimed that Imran did desire a meeting with the army chief which the latter denied, saying he was not ready to interfere in the political process.
It is pertinent to mention that earlier this month, Imran said he was ready to talk to Gen Munir “for the betterment of the country”, stressing he had “no quarrel with the establishment”.
In a wide-ranging discussion with reporters at his Zaman Park residence in Lahore, he had touched upon politics, his ties with the military, his frustration with ex-army chief Bajwa and why he chose not to fly to Islamabad for court hearings.
When asked why he was not speaking to the “establishment” — a euphemism for the military — he had said he never had a quarrel with the establishment, and it was Gen Bajwa that “stabbed me in the back”.
According to BBC Urdu, the PTI chief also touched on election and noted that the Supreme Court had ordered to hold polls in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Punjab within 90 days. He further said that the president had also made an announcement in this regard.
But “the police comes when we take out an election rally,” he said, in an apparent reference to yesterday’s police crackdown on PTI workers in Lahore following the imposition of Section 144 in which a party worker was killed.
The ex-premier said that the caretaker government’s job was to hold elections. “How can they stop it? If the elections are to be held, how can they take place without rallies and an election campaign?”
Imran said that the parties comprising the coalition government were “scared”. He said that the PTI had won 37 by-elections over the last few months.
“Their (government) popularity is such that they can’t even go out onto the streets. They are trying [to ensure] that elections do not take place”
Imran claimed the government wanted chaos. “If we wanted, the fight would continue until the night but we didn’t want to give them the opportunity to call off elections on the pretext of chaos.”
He further said that electoral watchdog had given dates for elections in both the provinces after the directives issued by the apex court but the government did not seem keen on holding polls.
“All sorts of excuses are being given for why elections should not be held. I fear that they (government) will get some famous personality killed similar to what happened with Benazir Bhutto.”
Asked what he would do if elections were not held, Imran said that such a scenario would be considered contempt of court. “If they (government) don’t carry out the elections, the Constitution and law” will cease to exist, he said.
Imran said his opponents wanted him to be disqualified and jailed so that the parties comprising the coalition government could win the polls.
“I won the 2018 elections because the public was against the parties in power, Now the same parties have been buried due to the increase in inflation.”
He reiterated that the PTI wanted elections to be held, adding that common sense suggested that that all polls were held together.
“This will also benefit the country. Let the people choose who they want. The government that will come [into power] will solve the people’s problems.”