Blocking army chief’s selection Imran’s biggest folly, says Sheikh Rashid

Published October 21, 2023
Awami Muslim League (AML) chief and PTI ally, Sheikh Rashid Ahmed, speaks during an interview with Samaa TV.
Awami Muslim League (AML) chief and PTI ally, Sheikh Rashid Ahmed, speaks during an interview with Samaa TV.

RAWALPINDI: The mysterious re-emergence of “missing” political leaders in TV interviews continued on Friday when the face of Awami Muslim League (AML) chief Sheikh Rashid Ahmed flashed on TV screens after a disappearance of 34 days.

In the interview, Mr Rashid kept professing his proximity to the army and said that attempting to block the appointment of Chief of Army Staff Gen Asim Munir was PTI Chairman Imran Khan’s biggest mistake.

As with previous interviews of former PTI leaders Usman Dar and Sadaqat Ali Abbasi, Mr Ahmed also denounced the May 9 attacks and called for a general amnesty for all those currently facing trial over the violent protests following Mr Khan’s arrest.

Mr Ahmed appeared in the interview a day after the Rawalpindi bench of the Lahore High Court ordered police to recover him by Oct 26. He was allegedly picked up from his residence in Rawalpindi on Sept 17, according to his lawyer.

AML leader appears in TV interview after disappearance; says May 9 attacks result of PTI leaders’ narrative

Sitting across from Muneeb Farooq on Samaa TV, the AML chief, who is usually flamboyant and candid in interviews, appeared shaken.

When the host asked about his whereabouts, Mr Rashid said: “Just assume I was on a chilla [with] a tableeghi jamaat (proselytisers). I kept reading the [Holy] Quran during these 40 days.”

When asked why he wanted to give an interview, Mr Ahmed said, “This has become a tradition”.

‘Black Day’

When asked about the May 9 attack, Mr Ahmed said, “It was a black day in the country’s history.”

“I immediately condemned that,” he said, while referring to the attacks on army installations, which he called a “turning point in the country’s political history and the main reason for the PTI chief’s downfall”.

He alleged the attacks resulted from a narrative built and propagated by certain party leaders. “This didn’t happen in one day. Gathering such a huge crowd and inflicting so much damage; it can’t happen in a single day.”

According to Mr Rashid, the military would take action against “non-political actors” involved in the attacks in line with their rules, but for the political workers who were dragged into the game, a general pardon should be granted.

“During my time in solitude, I decided to start a struggle to secure a general amnesty for poor political workers who were dragged into a political game,” he said, adding that he would request Chief of Army Staff Gen Asim Munir to pardon all those involved in May 9 attacks.

Going back to 2022, when Mr Khan was ousted through a no-confidence motion, the AML chief said he was of the view that PTI shouldn’t initiate a confrontation with the army.

He disclosed that he wanted to play the role of a mediator, but Mr Khan did not allow him to do so.

Mr Rashid said “three people” were mediating between Mr Khan and the establishment, but all of them had now formed their party. He, however, only named former defence minister Pervaiz Khattak as one of the negotiators.

Imran’s biggest mistake

Commenting on PTI’s long march in 2022 , the AML chief claimed the march’s objectives were much more than just mobilising people. “It’s not right to share those things now.”

When Mr Ahmed was asked why the PTI chief “attempted to stop Gen Munir’s appointment as COAS, he said, “This was the biggest mistake”.

“We, the politicians, should come out of this issue. This should be left up to the army,” he said with regard to the appointment of the army chief.

“Those around Mr Khan thought they had a lot of say within [the army ranks],” he said, adding that those PTI leaders thought if they reached Rawalpindi, they’d be supported by those officers.

Published in Dawn, October 21st, 2023

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