KARACHI: PTI Chair­man Imran Khan said it would make no difference if a five-member bench or a larger bench of the Supreme Court takes up his party’s petition against delay in polls in Punjab as his only concern was whether or not elections will be held in 90 days.

“Whether it’s a 5 [member] SC bench or Full Bench, it makes no difference to us [because] all we want to know is if elections will be held within the 90 days’ constitutional provision,” Mr Khan said in a series of tweets on Thursday.

“Before we dissolved our two [provincial] assemblies, I consulted our top constitutional lawyers, all of whom were absolutely clear that the 90-day Constitutional provision on holding of elections was inviolable,” the PTI chief tweeted.

He said the incumbent government was “cherry picking” constitutional provisions they want to implement and are ready to destroy the Consti­tutions to “whitewash their leaders”.

The “imported government, their handlers and a compromised ECP” were making a “complete mockery of the Constitution” by delaying the polls, he continued.

The PTI chief’s comments have come on the day when the bench hearing the case stood dissolved after one of the judges, Justice Aminuddin Khan, recused himself from hearing. Now a fresh Supreme Court bench will take up the case tomorrow (Friday).

Lasting nerve damage

Separately, Mr Khan has claimed that his right leg suffered lasting nerve damage as a result of the assassination attempt on his life in Wazirabad in November 2022.

In an interview with UK paper The Independent, Mr Khan revealed that two bullet wounds to his thigh have healed, while the third bullet shattered his shin bone and damaged a nerve.

“I have had more problems with the impact of the nerve damage than the bullet wounds,” he said in the interview published on Thursday.

“I still can’t walk properly, I still don’t have proper sensation in my right foot. That’s a lasting effect, which the doctor says eventually with time will heal, will go away.”

In a wide-ranging interview, Mr Khan also talked about the government’s action, his party’s elections campaign and foreign policy.

Talking about the current political situation, Mr Khan said what’s happening today was unprecedented and he had “never seen Pakistan sink to this level”.

He added that he was put in jail for eight days for opposing the military dictatorship of former president Pervez Musharraf but his time in jail was “liberal compared to what is going on [now].”

Commenting on the cases and police actions against him, Mr Khan claimed some of the persecution he was facing was near “farcical”. He claimed the police beat up his household staff and detained his cook during the raid at his house on March 18 when he went to appear in an Islamabad court.

“They beat him up and took him away, put him in prison and asked him: ‘What does Imran eat?’,” The Independent quoted Mr Khan as saying.

On the disappearance of PTI activist Azhar Mashawani, Mr Khan told The Independent that he has been targeted for being active on social media and propagating the PTI’s message.

“They’ve completely clamped down on the main media, they basically don’t allow me to be seen in the national media,” he said. “Now they are clamping down on social media, and the whole idea is that they should somehow completely black me out.”

Comparison with Trump

When asked about comparisons with former US president Donald Trump, Mr Khan said his ideology was different from Mr Trump but they both had one thing in common: they were outsiders in politics.

“My ideology is completely different to what Donald Trump stood for. He said greed is not a bad thing, I am the opposite. I feel that the world is being destroyed by greed. I also saw the impact of climate change much before anyone else did, and Donald Trump didn’t believe in that,” Mr Khan told The Independent.

On the foreign policy front, Mr Khan was asked about his meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin on the day Russia invaded Ukraine in Feb 2022 and whether he’d mend ties with Russia and buy cheap oil given Pakistan’s dire economic situation if he returned to power.

The former PM admitted the timing of his visit to Moscow was a “bad” and said going to Russia at this moment would mean he was “endorsing what Russia has done” in Ukraine.

On the question of condemning Russia’s actions in Ukraine, Mr Khan said: “My whole thing is that countries like us can’t afford to be partisan, we should be neutral. Our main concern is our own people.”

Published in Dawn, March 31st, 2023

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