• Claims he refused establishment’s proposal to stand down for three years in exchange for ‘future political role’
• Accuses PML-N, ECP of planning to hijack elections, urges all parties to remain vigilant
• Alleges Gen Bajwa was conspiring against his govt from start, but delayed ‘regime change’ plans due to Covid
• Offers no word on why his regime gave ex-army chief an extension if they suspected his intentions

ISLAMABAD: A local court on Friday reserved its verdict in the case related to the marriage of former prime minister Imran Khan with Bushra Bibi during the latter’s Iddat period.

Senior civil judge Qudrat Ullah will announce the decision on the complaint of Khawar Fareed Maneka on Saturday (today) in a makeshift court at Adiala Jail.

Meanwhile, in a revealing interaction with journalists during a recess in proceedings, Mr Khan confirmed backchannel contacts with the powerful military establishment through Bushra Bibi, but disclosed that he had refused a proposed ‘deal’.

The judge reserved judgement after recording the statements of Mr Khan and Bushra Bibi under Section 342 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC).

During proceedings, the defence counsel concluded the cross-examination of Khawar Fareed Maneka, the ex-husband of Bushra Bibi; Aun Chaudhry, who was a witness to the Nikkah ceremony; and Mufti Saeed, who solemnised the Nikkah.

During the cross-examination of Mufti Saeed, the defence counsel argued that the witness was part of the team of ‘Opera­tion Khalifa’, a coup attempt made in 1995.

The counsel alleged that Mufti Saeed was arrested along with former Maj Gen Zaheerul Islam Abbasi and ex-Brig Mustansar Billah for mutiny against the government, but later became an approver against the army officers.

Mr Khan’s counsel also cross-examined Mr Maneka on Friday.

A day earlier, Advocate Usman Riaz Gill had cross-examined him in the same case. He questioned as to why Mr Maneka remained silent from 2017 to Nov 24, 2023. He stated that Bushra Bibi’s ex-husband filed the complaint after he was picked up in a corruption case and had been detained for over a month.

The lawyer claimed that the complaint was filed as an afterthought and under duress.

Talking to the media persons, Mr Maneka dispelled the impression of enjoying perks during the PTI’s government. He claimed that he learned about the marriage of his ex-wife with Mr Khan through the newspaper, and then a story by journalist Umar Cheema was published claiming that the Nikkah was solemnised during the Iddat period.

“I also contacted Jahangir Tareen and he assured me that the Nikkah would be reversed,” he said, adding that the assurance never materialised.

‘Backchannel talks’

Meanwhile, talking to reporters during the break, Imran Khan confirmed backchannel contacts with the establishment but claimed that he had refused the offer. He once again dispelled the impression that his spouse was shifted to Banigala to serve a 14-year sentence under a deal.

Mr Khan said that someone in the establishment indirectly approached Bushra Bibi and asked her to convince him (Imran) to stand down for three years and behave nicely, and then he would be given an open field based on ‘good conduct’.

The former premier said that the offer was made before his conviction while he was in prison. “They want me to stay quietly in Banigala,” he said.

Asked how he responded to the offer, Mr Khan said, “I said that I will not step back from my demand of a democratic system at any cost.”

He added, “I held several meetings with former army chief retired Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa for holding of free and fair elections. I will not accept any other deal.”

Mr Khan said that his message to the military establishment was that they should think about the 250 million people of Pakistan. “Rigged elections will lead to political instability in Pakistan, and the economy that is on the life support line will collapse eventually,” he said.

Mr Khan also claimed that the PML-N and the Election Commission if Pakistan had planned to hijack the upcoming elections.

“I would call all the political parties, Jamaat-i-Islami, Pakistan Peoples Party and others, to watch their votes,” he said, urging all parties to ensure that Form-45 of every polling station must be signed in the presence of their polling agents.

Mr Khan, however, rejected the idea of getting PPP’s support, saying that “the day I seek help from (Asif Ali) Zardari would be judgement day”.

Mr Khan also alleged that ex-Gen Bajwa started conspiring against his government from the very beginning of the PTI’s regime. He also claimed that PML-N leader Khawaja Asif was a close friend of Mr Bajwa’s father-in-law.

“Gen Bajwa, in order to get a second extension, connived with Shehbaz Sharif. They could have toppled the PTI regime much earlier, but they had to delay the regime change plan because of the coronavirus outbreak,” Mr Khan claimed. However, he offered no explanation on why his regime gave the former army chief an extension if they suspected his intentions.

Mr Khan also claimed that the former army chief “fabricated the cipher case” against him, whereas it was a conspiracy against the elected regime.

He alleged that in a meeting with him at the Prime Minister House, a high-ranking member of the military establishment had advised him not to raise the cipher issue in public.

Mr Khan also claimed that he had never thought of elevating the former ISI chief Faiz Hamid to the post of army chief. “Gen Bajwa conveyed to the PML-N that I wanted to appoint Faiz Hamid as the army chief,” he added.

Published in Dawn, February 3rd, 2024

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