• Sana says PM will respond positively if Imran approaches him for talks
• Asif calls PTI chief ‘internal enemy’, brands him more dangerous than Modi
• Marriyum ridicules ex-PM for throwing party activists under the bus for violence

ISLAMABAD: The government on Thursday went after PTI chief Imran Khan with all guns blazing, accusing him of everything — from maligning law enforcement agencies to abandoning his workers high and dry in the face of legal action following the incidents of May 9.

One government minister termed the PTI chief a bigger threat than Indian PM Narendra Modi, while another advised him to approach Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif directly, if he was indeed serious about talks with the government.

Taking to Twitter, PM Shehbaz said that Mr Khan could go to any extent to divert attention from his culpability in the tragic events of May 9.

“Make no mistake about the evil intent behind Imran Niazi’s latest ploy to defame our law enforcement agencies and police. Yet again, he is making misleading and baseless allegations of the “rights abuses” just to distract attention for his culpability in the tragic events of May 9,” the prime minister said in a tweet, adding: “I am not surprised by his antics”.

He said that someone who could persistently use foul language against the state institutions, incite people to violence and attack the state symbols and military installations, and bring down martyrs’ monuments, was capable of going to any extreme.

The prime minister said that Mr Khan presided over a disinformation apparatus that deployed fake news methodically to fool people. “Everything about him is hate, division and lie,” he remarked.

‘More dangerous than Modi’

Meanwhile, Defence Minister Khawaja Asif called Mr Khan “an internal enemy”, claiming that he was more dangerous than the Indian prime minister.

“People have so far not identified the internal enemy (Imran Khan) who is more dangerous than the enemy in front of you,” he said during an appearance on the Geo News programme Capital Talk, adding that people were not aware of the real face of Imran Khan.

Calling what happened on May 9 a “mutiny”, he said that internal enemies were posing a threat to the country’s unity and security.

Separately, Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah advised the PTI chief to directly approach Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif if he was serious about dialogue.

Serious about talks

In an interview with Voice of America (VOA), he extended the assurance that the prime minister will respond positively if Mr Khan made such an overture.

He regretted that the PTI chief would constitute a negotiation team for talks, but was averse to sitting with political leaders himself.

Mr Sanaullah said the government believed that the time was not right for talks with the PTI, as it may draw a negative reaction from the families of martyrs, whose sentiments were hurt by the events of May 9.

Despite this, he said, a positive response would be given to any move towards dialogue.

On a question regarding trying Imran Khan in a military court, he said that the acts of violence that transpired on May 9 were committed under his directions.

The minister claimed that some equipment, including laptops containing sensitive information, were either stolen or set on fire during the storming of the Corps Commander residence in Lahore, leading to the destruction of significant information. He said that it was the Pakistan Army which would recover these items.

Mr Sanaullah said that those found to be involved in theft have to be tried under the Army Act, asking why Mr Khan should not be dealt with under the same law.

He also said that any ‘king’s party’ was free to contest the election, as it would grab its own votes and would not disturb the PML-N’s vote bank.

Blaming workers and leaders

Minister for Information and Broadcasting Marriyum Aurangzeb also broadsided Mr Khan on Thursday, saying that his BBC interview was “a true reflection… of a duplicitous and false character.”

Commenting on Imran’s contradictory claims in the interview, she tweeted that in one sentence, he said there would be a reaction if he was jailed. Then, in the next breath, he blamed the party’s workers and leaders for the events of May 9.

“From ‘one page’ to ‘I was powerless’, from ‘US brought down my government’ to ‘Mohsin Naqvi brought down my government’, the liar has now finally put the debris of May 9 on his party workers and leaders,” she said.

In a separate press conference, she said that while PM Shehbaz had worked to stabilise the economy, the former ruler had only sowed the seeds of hatred, chaos and anarchy to train armed groups, which resulted in the May 9 tragedy.

“We have inherited a ruined economy from the previous government of PTI, which left the country at verge of default due to its inefficiency and incompetence,” she said.

The prime minister, she said, had started consultations related to the budget with the departments concerned and he had formed two sub-committees regarding agriculture.

“The economy cannot be switched on or switched off,” she said, adding it took time to improve economic indicators.“

Published in Dawn, June 2nd, 2023

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