• Says he got no beef with establishment, sympathises with comrades who quit PTI ‘under pressure’
• Skips NAB hearing in Al Qadir case
LAHORE: PTI Chairman Imran Khan on Thursday said everyone is condemning the attack on army installations and demanded a probe into it.
At his maiden press conference following his arrest that provoked countrywide riots, when asked if he condemned the attack on the Corps Commander House in Lahore, he replied: “Who is not condemning the burning of the Lahore Corps Commander House? Tell me one person in Pakistan who is not doing it.”
“The burning of that old building, it is being blamed on us on purpose […] In 27 years, have I ever said to turn to burning and rioting? I have always talked about peaceful protests within the law and the Constitution,” he added.
As authorities cranked up the crackdown on PTI in the wake of the violence that took place on May 9, the former prime minister said his party had got “no conflict” with the establishment and that PDM wanted to eliminate PTI from mainstream politics by pitting the army against the opposition party.
The former premier said he was not holding any dialogue with anyone because he had made it clear that “talks will be held on the issue of elections only, nothing else”.
“I have no conflict with the other side (establishment), but I do not know why they are annoyed with me,” the PTI chairman said in response to a question.
He reiterated his allegations that PDM was conspiring to eliminate PTI with the help of the military and said this move was dangerous for the country as it may result in the same circumstances which resulted in the dismemberment of Pakistan in 1971. “If anyone fights against its army, the country will be defeated,” he said.
The former premier also talked about desertions within his party and sympathised with the leaders who quit the PTI “under pressure” in the wake of the crackdown.
Malik Amin Aslam was the latest to bid adieu to Imran’s party on Thursday. Mr Khan said he was not sure if he would accept these leaders back into the party fold.
However, the PTI chairman commended the party leaders who remained steadfast and said the “nation will remember them for not bowing to pressure tactics”. “When I am not deterred by two assassination attempts, I will not give any consideration to any pressure tactics and keep on standing for the cause of Haqeeqi Azadi even if left alone,” he declared.
Mr Khan demanded a thorough probe by an independent commission into the riots that took place on May 9.
“I can foretell that any fair investigation will reveal that the attacks were part of a planned conspiracy,” he alleged and claimed that his party would provide evidence to the commission to corroborate its claims.
The government must provide CCTV footage, he said, while calling out the police and soldiers for their failure to stop the rioters.
“PTI Central Punjab President Dr Yasmin Rashid and my sisters were asking people not to go inside…[and] protest peacefully outside the building,” he said.
Speaking about alleged terrorists at his residence, Imran Khan said if there were ‘terrorists’ inside his house then the government would have named them. “The reason the caretaker government did not disclose their identities was that they were planning to bring 30-40 people with them and then accuse me of harbouring terrorists, just like last time when they broke into my house… [and] planted Kalashnikov and petrol bombs,” the former premier claimed. He said an independent commission must also probe and ascertain who fired and killed 25 unarmed protesters and left scores injured.
Legal status of interim set-ups
The PTI chairman also questioned the caretaker governments in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa after the completion of three months. The Punjab and KP governments were tasked to hold general elections in their respective provinces within 90 days, which they failed to do. “There is no other way to steer the country out of current political and economic crises except free and fair elections,” he asserted.
In a statement earlier in the day, the PTI chairman said the nation had been taken over by a bunch of “crooks, criminals, duffers devoid of any ethics or morality”. “While the country sinks into its worst economic crisis especially unprecedented inflation and unemployment, all those in power are concentrating on how to crush the biggest and the only federal party by unleashing a reign of terror,” Imran Khan stated.
Skips NAB hearing
Imran Khan also skipped a NAB hearing and submitted a detailed reply in the Al-Qadir Trust probe. The former premier said he was not the custodian of the document signed between property tycoon Malik Riaz’s family and the National Crime Agency (NCA) neither did he have any copy of the document.
Mr Khan said owing to his engagements regarding pre-arrest bails in a number of cases it was not possible for him to appear in person to join the investigation on the said date.
“All the allegations made by you in the call-up notice are absolutely false, frivolous and concocted, and based on a deliberate misconception of law and facts, and baseless conjectures and surmises,” the PTI chief said in his reply.
He said the correspondence between the government of Pakistan and NCA, UK constituted an official record and should be with the department concerned.
“Similarly, the correspondence (sought by NAB) comprises official records and should be with the department concerned of the government, and I cannot provide the same as I am not its custodian,” he said, adding that documents regarding the Al Qadir Trust would be available with the chief finance officer.
“In this respect… [CFO] informs me that he has already provided you (NAB) with the bulk of the documents mentioned in your call-up notice. Accordingly, you may kindly check your record before issuing me a fresh call-up notice as requested,” Mr Khan said.
Imran Khan also termed the case ‘politically motivated’. “Your (NAB) allegation that a call-up notice dated 02-03-2023 was earlier issued to me, but I neither joined the inquiry nor provided documents specified therein… This allegation is absolutely false and contumaciously malicious,” he said and added during the entire course of the inquiry, NAB sent only one call-up notice which was promptly responded to.
“Thereafter, you neither sent me any further call-up notice during the inquiry, nor did you refute the purely legal objections…,” Mr Khan added.
He said the NAB purportedly completed the inquiry and converted it into an investigation on April 28, but he was not provided with a copy of the inquiry report. The PTI chairman accused the accountability watchdog of playing an “instrumental [role] in my abduction”. Mr Khan said he was present in the high court to file a plea seeking a court order to acquire a copy of the investigation report, but he was taken into custody. “You, after taking me into custody pursuant to my illegal arrest, delivered to me a copy of the said inquiry report,” he said in response to the notice.
Mr Khan further said he would request that before serving him a call-up notice and recording his statement, a copy of the said inquiry report along with his clothes and shaving kit he had left behind at Police Lines Islamabad might also be sent to him at his Zaman Park residence.
Note: Some changes have been made in the original story for the sake of clarity.
Published in Dawn, May 19th, 2023