PTI chief Imran Khan on Tuesday doubled down on his allegations against a serving senior military officer, who he has accused on several occasions of hatching a plot to assassinate him.
The PTI chairman made the remarks ahead of departing for Islamabad to appear before the Islamabad High Court (IHC) in a mutiny case and another pertaining to charges of attempted murder.
His biting rejoinder comes a day after the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) said that “irresponsible and baseless allegations” by Imran against the said military officer without evidence were “extremely unfortunate, deplorable and unacceptable”.
During a rally on Saturday, the PTI chairman had once again named a senior intelligence official for orchestrating plans to murder him. “I am on the roads despite verifiable threats to my life. I have already escaped an assassination attempt once. On the second occasion, I was able to sniff out murder planning,” he had said.
This was not the first time the ex-premier has made these claims. After an assassination attempt last year, Imran had held Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah and the senior intelligence official as being responsible for the bid to assassinate him and demanded they resign.
In a video message shared on Tuesday, Imran replied to the ISPR and “attempts by PDM and their handlers” regarding his arrest. He said that he was departing for the federal capital as he was scheduled to appear before two courts.
“Before I leave, I want to say two things. Firstly, the ISPR has issued a statement that the institution has been disrespected — the army has been disrespected [by] naming an intelligence officer that has tried to kill me twice.
“ISPR sahib, listen to me carefully. Respect is not [confined] to a single institution; respect should be for every single citizen,” he said.
Imran highlighted that he was the chief of the country’s “largest” political party, adding that he did not need to lie.
“This man tried to kill me twice and whenever an investigation is carried out, I will prove that it was this man and there is a whole gang with him,” Imran said, adding that the nation was well aware of who was standing with the officer in question.
“My question is: [Despite being] a country’s ex-prime minister — because this man’s name has come forward — [why was] I unable to register a first information report (FIR)?”
He said that the truth would only surface once an investigation is carried out. “If he was innocent, it would have been revealed,” the PTI chief said, terming the officer in question to be such a “powerful personality” that he was unable to register a case despite being in power in Punjab.
He said that two senior police officials had refused to become a part of the joint investigation team (JIT) formed by the Punjab government to investigate the attack on his life in Wazirabad. “Who was behind it? Who was this powerful?”
He alleged that when the JIT determined that three shooters were involved in the incident, the team itself was “sabotaged” and that four Counter-Terrorism Department (CTD) officials changed their statements.
“The prosecutor general investigated. He said action should be taken against the four because they tried to sabotage [the JIT]. Who was behind them? Who was this powerful?”
The PTI chief further claimed that he would prove that the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) had taken over the Judicial Complex in Islamabad the night before he went to attend a hearing in the Toshakhana case in March.
The PTI chairman has already claimed that he did not disembark from his vehicle because “unknown people” were positioned there with plans to kill him.
“I will prove that ISI [officials] were present in CTD uniforms and lawyers’ garb. I will prove that a brigadier, who I will not name, was there to monitor everything. What was the ISI doing there?”
Imran said that the mother of slain journalist Arshad Sharif had also taken the names of the intelligence officer and the gang that he was a part of yet no investigation was carried out as he was a “holy cow” and, therefore, above the law.
“ISPR sahib, when an institution takes action against black sheep, it improves its own credibility. An institution which catches corrupt people strengthens itself.”
He said that action is taken when a doctor or an employee does something wrong at Shaukat Khanum Memorial Hospital (SKMH).
“It is my army, my Pakistan not just yours. It is our army,” Imran asserted. He also lamented the crackdown against those who were vocal about their criticism of the military establishment, stating that it was in fact harming the institution.
The PTI chief went on to say that there was also no need to call in a heavy contingent of police and other officials during his appearance before the courts in Islamabad today.
“If someone has a warrant, come to me directly […] I am prepared to go to jail […] spending so much money as if a major criminal is coming to Islamabad. Do us a favour and don’t stage such a drama and directly provide a warrant,” he said, asserting that he was mentally prepared to go to jail.
He also said that the plan hatched by “Dirty Harry” involved a gang of people, adding that if God willed, he was ready to die at their hands. He ended his video message by calling on the nation to “get ready”.
Back and forth continues between PM, Imran
Hours after the PTI chief issued the video statement, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif took to Twitter to state that he had “no doubt” that Imran’s politics were defined by “blatant lies, untruths, U-turns, and vicious attacks on institutions”.
On Sunday, the premier had stated that Imran’s act of “routinely maligning and threatening the Pakistan Army and the intelligence agency for the sake of petty political gains is highly condemnable.”
In response to the premier’s tweets, Imran on Monday had asked if he did not have the right to nominate those he felt were responsible for the assassination attacks on him. “Why was I denied my legal and constitutional right to register a FIR?”
“Does SS [Shehbaz Sharif’s] tweet mean military officers are above the law or that they cannot commit a crime? If we allege one of them has committed a crime, how is the institution being maligned?” he asked. “Who was so powerful to sabotage the Wazirabad JIT while the PTI government was still in power in Punjab?”
Imran further said: “Can Shehbaz Sharif answer why the ISI took over ICT Judicial Complex evening before my appearance there on March 18? Why were ISI personnel in CTD and lawyers camouflaged? What was the motive and what business did ISI have in the complex?”
He then said that when the premier did find the answers to these questions, they would all point to “one powerful man and his accomplices all being above the law”.
“It is time for us to officially declare that in Pakistan there is only the law of the jungle where might is right,” Imran added.
The premier responded to Imran’s list of questions with one of his own on Tuesday, castigating the PTI chief for “bending the judiciary to your whims and behaving as if rules don’t apply to you”.
“What I said about you in my tweet is established by facts over the past few years,” he said.
He noted that maligning the Pakistan Army was a “recurring pattern” in Imran’s politics after his ouster. “Did you not resort to constant mud-slinging of the leadership of the army and intelligence agency much before the Wazirabad attack?”
The premier also asked what legal route Imran had adopted other than “hurling threats and making baseless allegations almost on a daily basis”.
“You refused the offer of cooperation from the federal government and boycotted the legal proceedings. You were never interested in finding the truth about the attack but used the condemnable incident for petty political objectives,” Shehbaz said.
He also questioned at whose behest the “savaging social media campaign” against the martyrs of the armed forces was launched in the aftermath of last year’s Pakistan Army helicopter crash in Balochistan.
“Which party did the troll brigade belong to that mocked the martyrs, which was a new low and unimaginable in our politics and culture? With these subversive/treacherous acts on your part, do we need an enemy?”
In his last question, the premier asked who had used religion for political purposes by describing the political agitation in religious terms, terming it “a cunning and self-serving attempt at exposing political opponents to violence at the hands of your supporters”.
“Did your party leaders not condone, justify and even celebrate the incident of harassment and intimidation of an official delegation, including a female minister, in the courtyard of our beloved Prophet’s (PBUH) mosque by disregarding all norms of reverence and devoutness?” he asked, referring to a Pakistani delegation on an official visit being accosted and heckled at the Masjid-i-Nabwi in Madina last year in April.
“Let this be abundantly clear that you, as former prime minister, currently on trial for corruption, are claiming legitimacy to overturn the legal and political system.
“As for your assertion of Pakistan becoming a ‘jungle’, I advise you not to go there, for the facts are often bitter and disastrous. Let us keep this for another day,” the premier said.