‘Nothing to do with army’: PTI disassociates Imran from controversial 1971 X post

Published May 28, 2024
PTI leader Barrister Gohar Ali Khan speaks in an interview on Tuesday. — Azaad Urdu screengrab
PTI leader Barrister Gohar Ali Khan speaks in an interview on Tuesday. — Azaad Urdu screengrab

The PTI on Tuesday distanced party founder Imran Khan from a controversial social media post on the 1971 civil war and the Hamoodur Rahman Com­mission Report, saying that the post was not aimed towards the military and should be seen in a “political context”.

“The context and comparison that we drew with 1971 was in a political context and not otherwise — nothing about the army,” PTI leader and MNA Barrister Gohar Ali Khan categorically said today in an interview with digital news outlet Azaad Urdu.

In a post on social media platform X dated May 26, Imran’s account, which is managed by his social media team due to him being incarcerated in Rawalpindi’s Adiala Jail serving sentences in multiple cases, shared a video along with a quote attributed to him: “Every Pakistani should study the Hamoodur Rahman Commission Report and get to know who was the true traitor, General Yahya Khan or Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.”

The video argued that the former military dictator was the one actually responsible for the country’s breakup, referring to alleged atrocities committed by the Pakistani military during the civil war.

The video also interspersed images of the current civilian and military leadership, alleging that they stole the party’s mandate in the general elections.

The PTI had doubled down on the post, saying that the report analysed the “role of the Pakistan military in the political-military involvement in East-Pakistan from 1947 to 1971”.

“Mysteriously all 12 copies created were either stolen or were destroyed. The uncanny resemblance with the current turn of events in last two years, involving military and civilian relationships makes one question,” the PTI had said, seemingly referring to the state crackdown under way against the party.

The posts generated intense blowback and controversy, particularly from the government ranks.

PPP Senator Sherry Rehman had said the post was “alarming” and the PTI was “continuously fueling the narrative of hatred and incitement” by comparing Imran to Sheikh Mujib.

The posts were harshly criticised in a meeting of the PML-N general council today where Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif lashed out at the PTI founder, saying: “Imran Khan’s ugly face has been exposed. He defames the Pakistan Army.”

Political maverick Mustafa Nawaz Khokhar had also said the post was akin to “misleading the youth of today”.

Responding to the criticism, the PTI earlier today said Imran had only asked people to read the report and did not compare himself with anyone.

In a longer post today, the party denounced the heated criticism against it as “poisonous false propaganda campaign of the mandate-thief government”, adding that the party had referred to the events of 1971 only to learn from history.

It said the party and Imran did not believe in handing out labels of treason.

In a video interview later today, Barrister Gohar Ali Khan elaborated on the intended meaning and purpose of the incendiary social media post.

“It was just our [meaning about the] political context,” he said, adding that a party’s mandate and majority were changed in 1971, similar to the PTI’s allegations about the current election result and government.

“Sometimes things are exaggerated. Imran Khan has nothing to do with this [post] because he did not see its content or other things.”

He said Imran was in prison and “does not approve each and every video or context”.

Barrister Gohar reiterated that just because the post mentioned the commission report or its contents, “it should not be interpreted in this context as if we are against them (the army) or that we are looking at [the matter in] a military context. Our version of the scenario was political context [then and now].”

Talking about access to social media in the country and its user statistics, Gohar said just because a post was seen on social media on a particular day, “it does not mean that a party has orchestrated a campaign. The PTI does not a run a campaign against anyone at any time.”

In a subsequent X post, Gohar reiterated: “Our comparison of 1971 was in political context … see what happened to the country in 1971 which is being done now. This is our narrative,” adding that the PTI was not the Awami League and nor was Imran Sheikh Mujib.

The incarcerated former prime minister has drawn comparison to the events of 1971 before as well.

In April, drawing a parallel between current developments in Pakistan with the circumstances leading to the 1971 Dhaka tragedy, Imran had warned that the present situation could result in economic collapse, reminding the powers that be that countries and institutions could not survive without a stable economy.

“In 1970, army chief Yahya Khan wanted a hung parliament, but when Sheikh Mujibur Rahman’s party got a clear majority army held a fraud by-election in which 80 seats of Awami League were snatched as Yahya Khan wanted to become president,” Barrister Salman Akram Raja had said, while narrating the PTI founder’s message during a presser at the National Press Club after the party’s legal team met Imran in Adiala Jail.

In March, Imran had said that it was the ‘stolen mandate’ of East Pakistan that was behind the 1971 tragedy, adding that the country could not survive without political stability.

In November 2022, Imran had compared his struggle for ‘real freedom’ with that of Sheikh Mujib and reminded that the country had split into two after a political party with a legitimate political mandate was denied its right to rule.

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