LAHORE: Former prime minister Imran Khan sees the resurgence of the cipher controversy as an apparent bid to disqualify him from contesting elections by the ruling parties who, according to him, have “shot themselves in the foot” by reviving the issue.

The PTI chairman, who had promised a ‘proper expose’ on the controversy, spoke for almost half an hour but did not provide any fresh evidence to back oft-repeated allegations. The address began two hours behind schedule. In it, he accused Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, PPP leader Asif Ali Zardari, and ex-COAS Qamar Javed Bajwa of hatching a conspiracy to remove him.

Mr Khan said the rulers have only a one-point agenda i.e. how to disqualify the PTI chairman and send him to jail. In order to fulfil this plan, they have now brought forward the cipher, he claimed. “But they are clueless that this cipher will be their annihilation,” he added.

He demanded a detailed inquiry into the US cipher “conspiracy” as the Federal Investigation Agency was not “competent enough” to spearhead the probe. “The nation must know about the real players behind the conspiracy,” he said.

Imran Khan lauded then-envoy to the US Asad Majeed – who had reportedly asked the government to issue a demarche over the cipher – for his integrity and steadfastness, saying no such courage was shown by other politicians.

“My own army chief was lobbying against me and acting to topple his government that had revived the country’s economy and industry after hectic efforts,” the PTI chairman alleged.

Referring to the US demand in the cipher to topple the government and his decision to go to Russia, he said the US was actually addressing the former army chief since he was the only person having the power to topple the government.

After presenting the cipher in a meeting of the National Security Committee, the former premier said he took the cipher to parliament for an in-camera meeting.

But, he claimed, opposition leaders Shehbaz Sharif and Asif Ali Zardari did not turn up because “they were part of the conspiracy”. “If an inquiry would have been held, Gen Bajwa would have been exposed,” he added.

The former premier also refused to accept the alleged statement attributed to his aide, Azam Khan. Fearing that his aide was forced to give the statement, he said until he would listen to the said statement from Azam Khan in person, he would not believe it.

“I don’t believe Azam Khan has said many of these things [in the alleged statement]…and many are also true,” he said in a reference to the statement attributed to his aide.

Published in Dawn, July 21st, 2023

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