PML-Q leader Moonis Elahi has claimed that former army chief retired Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa had advised his party to support the PTI in a weeks-long tussle that ended with the ouster of Imran Khan as the prime minister through a no-confidence vote in April.
Moonis — who was a federal minister during the PTI’s tenure and whose party has remained Imran’s key ally, even at the cost of rifts within the PML-Q — made the claim during Hum News programme ‘Hum Meher Bokhari Kay Sath’ on Thursday night.
“At present, a certain section on social media has been bashing Bajwa sahib without any reason. He is the same Bajwa sahib who had bent the direction of the river’s flow for the PTI,” Moonis said, adding that he had had a disagreement on this with the PTI and anyone else speaking against the retired army chief.
He went on to say that a man “went all out for you (PTI)”, but now that he had retired, “he has become bad”.
“Had he been bad, he wouldn’t have asked us to back Imran.”
When Bokhari sought clarification on whether Gen Bajwa had asked them to support Imran, Moonis elaborated: “When the decision was being taken on which way we have to go, we had received offers from both sides — mian sahiban [Sharif family], the PDM (Pakistan Democratic Movement), as well as the PTI.
“Obviously, as everyone knows, my inclination was towards the PTI. There’s no doubt about it.”
Moonis continued, “I then had a discussion with walid sahib (his father, Punjab Chief Minister Parvez Elahi) and walid sahib had a talk with them (an apparent reference to the military establishment).
“They said, ‘It is my wish that you side with them (PTI)’. Had that man (Gen Bajwa) been bad, why would he have asked us to side with them at that critical juncture … Had that man been that bad and against Khan sahib and the PTI, […] he only had to give a signal at that juncture and we would have gone the other way.
“This is why I don’t even buy this story that he is against [the PTI],” he added.
Moonis’ claim has come as PTI leaders intensified their criticism of Gen Bajwa following his retirement.
In April, Pakistan saw for the first time in its history the ouster of a prime minister, Imran, through a no-confidence vote. The efforts for the PTI chief’s removal were led by the then-opposition and now partners in the ruling coalition, primarily the PDM and PPP.
For their part, the PTI accused the country’s incumbent rulers of colluding with the US and hatching a regime change conspiracy to topple Imran’s government and blamed the military, which was led by retired Gen Bajwa at the time, for letting the current dispensation in Islamabad go ahead with the alleged conspiracy.
While the long-drawn saga was unfolding, the PML-Q continued to change positions before it eventually threw its weight behind Imran.
In mid-March, days ahead of the voting on the no-trust motion against Imran, Parvez Elahi had expressed reservations with Imran and said during an interview with Bokhari for Hum News that the then-opposition, PDM, had the support of “more than required” lawmakers to dislodge the PTI government.
Elahi had gone on to say that PTI government was itself to blame for the position it was in and that it had never learned how to build relationships but instead, “ruined things with everyone, including its own people”.
Moreover, he had remarked: “The work carried out on the government’s behalf never allowed it to learn things for itself.”
“The child will learn to walk only when you put him down,” he had said metaphorically, without taking any names. “Would you keep on changing nappies all his life?”
In the same interview, Elahi had implied that the commitments made to his party by the PTI were not been honoured.
But the very next day, he had extended an olive branch to the then-government, praising Imran for being an “honest” man and clarifying that neither had his party “left the government nor joined the opposition”.
“We are allies and an independent party. There are different views among parties, but decisions are taken through mutual consultation,” he had said.
Eventually, the PML-Q had sided with the PTI — even as the latter’s other major allies deserted it — after Usman Buzdar stepped down as the Punjab chief minister in favour of Elahi.
PML-Q has repeatedly professed its loyalty toward Imran’s cause and said that would dissolve the Punjab Assembly, where Elahi is chief minister, without hesitation upon the PTI chief’s command.