By Abdullah Zahid
Prime Minister Imran Khan on Friday stressed that all state institutions, along with the army, stand by him amid mounting pressure from the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM).
Speaking about the verbal attacks of PML-N supremo Nawaz Sharif and his party against the top military leadership, the premier, said that “anger” and “disappointment” prevailed among the ranks after Chief of Army Staff Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa was targeted.
“Gen Bajwa believes in democracy. Had it been another general, he would have given a quick rebuttal,” PM Imran Khan said, adding that the army chief was “angry”, but he was “controlling it,” the premier added.
Prime Minister Imran said the opposition was today accusing him of being a “puppet”, saying it wanted to talk to the establishment. “This means they’re putting pressure on the army to remove a democratic government. This is [their] democratic movement,” he added.
The premier said because the opposition realised he would not budge from his position, they were “appealing to the Pakistan Army, asking it to remove a democratic government. Article 6 applies on this; it is a case of treason.”
“The opposition’s second demand is that if the army and ISI chiefs do not remove me, then the army should remove them [the chiefs of army and ISI],” he added.
The prime minister said that all institutions — including the army — stood beside him. “There are excellent civil-military ties in the country.”
Speaking further about the civil-military dynamic, he said that the army serves under him as he is the prime minister, and as the army is a government institution.
Speaking on the former governments’ troubled relationships with the establishment, Prime Minister Imran said Nawaz was “manufactured by the army against the PPP”. He said he himself received a message from military ruler Gen Ziaul Haq in 1988 that he wanted to make him (Imran) the prime minister.
He further said the establishment had helped the PML-N supremo in the 2013 elections but their ties became strained because the establishment did not support him in 2018.
No ‘minister went to Israel’
The premier, in the interview, dismissed reports of any Pakistani representative visiting Israel, saying that why would any of the ministers visit Tel Aviv when Islamabad does not recognise it.
He stressed that the news was “baseless” and that “an entire campaign” was running in this regard.
Referring to the EU DisinfoLab’s report, the prime minister said that the NGO’s research had exposed India’s network that was spreading misinformation about Pakistan.
‘Long march specialist’
The prime minister dismissed the PDM’s demand that he quit by January 31, saying the opposition did not have the public on its side.
About the PDM’s announcement of staging a long march to the capital if the PTI government refuses to resign, Imran said if the alliance did indeed go ahead with such a march, it would “make it clear whether I have to resign or they have to”.
Referring to himself as the “long march specialist”, the prime minister said: “I am challenging … if they spend even one week [in Islamabad], I will actually start thinking about resigning.”
He said although the PTI had spent 126 days staging a sit-in against the then-PML-N government, the opposition would not be able to do so for even seven days “because people will not walk over to join them”.
Shedding light on early elections, he said that there was space for the government to hold Senate elections a month earlier.
“Show of hands means open ballot,” he said, as he explained the method that the government aims to introduce in the upcoming Senate elections.
The prime minister reminded the interviewer that his party had dismissed several members as they were involved in horse-trading during the Senate elections.
“It would be better [for the election to be held] through open ballot as it would end corruption,” he said.
The premier said that if the senators were elected on merit, they would play a productive role in the upper house.
He added that the attorney general is of the opinion that voting can be held via open ballot; however, the government will seek Supreme Court’s guidance on it.