Role in Imran’s ouster: Fazl retracts allegation against Gen Faiz, says ex-spymaster’s name uttered by mistake

Published February 16, 2024
Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam Fazl chief Fazlur Rehman speaks in an interview on Friday. — GTV news screengrab
Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam Fazl chief Fazlur Rehman speaks in an interview on Friday. — GTV news screengrab

Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam Fazl (JUI-F) chief Fazlur Rehman on Friday clarified his remarks regarding the role of former Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) chief Lt Gen (retd) Faiz Hameed — the then-Peshawar corps commander — in the no-confidence vote against former prime minister Imran Khan and the PTI government, saying that he had mistakenly uttered the ex-spy master’s name.

Pakistan had seen for the first time in its history the ouster of a prime minister through a vote of no-confidence (VONC), the efforts for which were led by the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM), an alliance of parties led by the PML-N.

For its part, the PTI had accused the PDM of colluding with the US and hatching a regime change conspiracy to topple Imran’s government and blamed the military, which was led by Bajwa at the time, for letting the then-dispensation in Islamabad go ahead with the alleged conspiracy. The US has repeatedly denied any interference.

A day ago in a tell-all interview on Samaa TV programme Nadeem Malik Live, the JUI-F chief had elaborated on the events of the no-confidence vote, and said: “They (Gen Bajwa and Gen Faiz) were in contact with all political parties regarding the no-confidence motion and they told us the way of going about it.”

“Gen Faiz had come to me and he asked me to go ahead [with the no-confidence vote], but only within the system, not out of the system. I refused it, though,” he had added.

It must be mentioned that Gen (retd) Faiz was replaced as the ISI director-general by Lieutenant General Nadeem Ahmed Anjum in October 2021, and posted as the Peshawar corps commander when the PTI government was ousted.

Fazl’s remarks had triggered a flurry in political circles, with his former allies in the PDM-led government as well as the PTI both passing comments on the allegations.

Earlier today, a report by The News said that sources close to the former generals had “categorically denied” Fazl’s allegations. “The source, quoting Gen Bajwa, said the former army chief is willing to deny Maulana’s statement under oath and expects the same from Maulana to get to the truth,” the report said.

Questioned about the matter and the alleged responses from the generals in a fresh interview on GTV news programme G for Gharidah, Fazl acknowledged that “it is correct to this extent that I mistakenly uttered Gen Faiz’s name and he was not [involved in the no-confidence endeavour] … there is no doubt.”

He further said that he considered the former generals and “their whole regime” responsible for the alleged rigging in the 2018 general elections.

“Instead of further debate, this should be relegated to history.”

He said when the two generals were alerted about political, economic and defence instability during the PTI government, they began approaching politicians to “stabilise the situation”.

Fazl said the establishment had always had a role in the country’s politics — a practice he said should end.

Regarding the challenge — by sources close to Gen (retd) Bajwa — to make the allegations under oath, Fazl said it was a waste of time to discuss oaths, especially when “there is no respect for their [own] oaths among the military.”

“Is there respect for the oath in their ranks … in the army … among generals? Don’t they take an oath of not interfering in politics when they are commissioned? Don’t they know they are interfering, have always done so and keep breaking their oath?” questioned the JUI-F chief.

“What importance will it (repeating the allegation under oath) have in my eyes if the one who asked me of it has always interfered in politics during their job and keeps violating their oath?”

Asked if he wanted an investigation into the matter, Fazl wondered who would do so, and whether a truth and reconciliation commission could, since he did not have faith in the current situation and institutions.

Elaborating on his allegation of the military’s meddling in political affairs, Fazl said that on March 26, 2022, the PDM parties were given the option that Imran could tender his resignation if they dropped the no-confidence motion against him.

Fazl said before he even joined the meeting, other participants had given their answer that the time for Imran’s resignation had passed.

Questioned about his first purported meeting with retired Gen Bajwa or other military officials on the no-confidence move, the JUI-F chief said he had “many private meetings”.

Gen Bajwa urged withdrawal of no-confidence motion: PML-N’s Malik Ahmad

Earlier today, PML-N leader Malik Ahmad Khan said on Friday that Gen (retd) Bjawa had advised the then-opposition to withdraw the vote of no-confidence.

Addressing a press conference in Lahore, Ahmad said: “The meeting in which the heads of all political parties were present […] in that, if he (Fazl) is saying that Gen Bajwa told to bring a VONC — I am presenting the incident that unfolded before me — in fact he (Bajwa) was saying to not bring a VONC.”

“He (Bajwa) was Imran’s representative, which I also objected to and asked ‘what is the [army] chief saying’,” he added.

Ahmad specified the meeting was held on March 26, 2022, at the “B-Mess near the Punjab House”. He termed the VONC an “organic, political move resulting from Imran’s administrative destruction”.

He said that his party was of the view that if Imran was to “step down and immediately proceed towards elections”, there was no need to go through the “ordeal” of a VONC.

The PML-N leader then recalled that during the said high-level meeting, Fazl questioned this line of thought and asked: “Why are you saying this after we have organised all this.”

“The way Maulana [Fazl] resisted, I thought of him as a great man,” Ahmad said. Recalling that Gen Bajwa had “come and urged us to withdraw the VONC so they could proceed towards elections”, he wondered how it “connected” to the recent claim made by Fazl.

“Does Maulana have any one person who can come forward and tell when he met him (Bajwa)?” he asked.

The aide to ex-PM Shehbaz also highlighted that Gen retd) Faiz was not even present during the meeting as he was “probably serving as a corps commander somewhere at that time”.

“Did he (Fazl) submit the VONC on someone’s advice? Absolutely not, as Maulana was involved in its filing, the manner of its filing and the political discussion held,” Ahmad claimed. “I wonder why he felt the need to say this today,” he added.

The PML-N leader said he thought of the meeting as Gen Bajwa “bringing his [Imran’s] message”, emphasising that Fazl “took a firm stand” at that time by asking: “Gen sahib, how can you tell us to withdraw [the VONC]?”

Ahmad further wondered why Gen Bajwa was allegedly advising the then-opposition to withdraw the no-confidence motion when, according to Fazl, he was the one who had orchestrated it. “I fail to understand.”

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