• Claims Bajwa controlled PTI govt due to thin majority
• Lauds Azam Khan for ‘speaking truth’, insists cipher still with foreign ministry

ISLAMABAD: Former prime minister Imran Khan on Friday hinted at his readiness for talks with other political parties, insisting that a politician is “always ready to hold dialogue”, but emphasised that the PTI would prefer to join the opposition instead of forming a “weak government”.

Talking to the journalists during the hearings of Toshakhana and £190 million corruption cases at Adiala Jail, Mr Khan claimed that his previous government was under the sway of former army chief retired Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa due to PTI’s slim parliamentary majority in the parliament.

However, Mr Khan was confident that his party would secure a sweeping victory in the upcoming elections and claimed that 90 per cent of armed forces personnel would vote for his party, which will contest without a unified election symbol.

Mr Khan also acknowledged the existence of khalai makhlooq — celestial beings or aliens, a colloquial term that refers to intelligence officials, to criticise the military’s alleged meddling in politics — and claimed that these forces were instigators behind the legal cases against him.

He refuted any full-scale support from the establishment in prior elections, arguing that the PTI was a victim of rigging, having lost multiple seats with narrow margins. “We had been weakened by design (so that they) get hold of the government,” he said.

Mr Khan reminisced about Gen Bajwa’s initial cordial behaviour after the 2018 election, claiming that the former army chief later “started controlling us”.

He regretted that the PTI should sit on the opposition benches instead of taking the helm after the 2018 elections. He said the party was ready to join the opposition if it failed to secure a majority in the next elections.

On a question about military deployment at polling stations, Mr Khan said, “Pak army is our army, and 90pc of them will vote for the PTI.” He also cited Gen Bajwa’s comments on the PTI’s popularity with the armed forces.

On the possibility of dialogue with political parties, Mr Khan said a politician is “always ready to hold dialogues”, pointing out that “I visited Iran to de-escalate tensions when I was the prime minister”.

The former premier said the country’s economy could be revived only through a stable government, stressing that the recently formed Special Investment Facilitation Council (SIFC) could not bring investment without political stability.

He described the statement of his former principal secretary Azam Khan in the cipher case as “factual”, emphasising that Mr Azam spoke the truth despite being detained for 40 days.

He said Mr Azam said the National Security Committee decided to issue demarche to the United States because of that country’s intervention in Pakistan’s internal affairs.

Mr Khan claimed that the cipher was still with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and he received a rephrased version of the diplomatic cable. He also criticised the PML-N for “befooling people” after “crippling the economy” during their 16 months in power.

Published in Dawn, January 20th, 2024

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