PTI Chairman Imran Khan on Thursday raised questions on the unprecedented press conference held by Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) chief Lt Gen Nadeem Ahmed Anjum and Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) DG Lt Gen Babar Iftikhar earlier today, saying that if institutions were apolitical what was the purpose of holding a “political presser”.
In an interview with journalist Amir Mateen aired on 92 News, the former premier said that today’s press conference was “unprecedented” and “never heard of”.
“Either there should be some issue that concerns them, like security, but they held a political press conference so I don’t understand this. Could the defence or interior minister or prime minister not have done this? What was their [the institutions’] job in holding the press conference?”
The PTI chief then went on to say that if he started giving answers “it will cause a lot of damage to the country”.
“Ever since I was removed from the government, I tried my best to prevent any harm to the country and army from my side. I know that if I say anything about the establishment it will impact the army.
“But when they do a press conference like this […] and if I start responding […] it will directly go on our army and I don’t want to hurt them in any way. This is why I always try my criticism to be constructive and beneficial,” Imran said.
He continued that he had been criticising “dirty harry” — who according to him has been recently posted in Islamabad — for the torture inflicted on Azam Swati and Shahbaz Gill.
“Our effort is to criticise them. With these actions that you’re doing, who is hurting? The country is being hurt, and what is happening because of these acts?”
Talking about “backdoor talks”, Imran said that before the no-confidence vote, he was aware of the “conspiracy” being hatched to topple his government.
“I very publicly said again and again that I had told Gen Bajwa that if at this time this conspiracy succeeds it will have a direct impact and loss on the economy.
“I warned and said that there were talks of an extension here. I told him that if they’re offering you [an extension], then we can do the same,” Imran said.
“To say that I was making deals in closed rooms […] what would I achieve from a deal? I said do this for Pakistan. But they didn’t stop the conspiracy and look what happened.”
Elaborating on the “deal”, Imran said that the meeting took place at the President’s House. “And in it, one thing was said […] what I have said publicly several times […] that except for elections there is no other way.”
Talking about the murder of journalist Arshad Sharif, Imran said that everyone knew “attempts were made to silence him”.
“Look at his programme, then who was in danger because of him […] look at his tweets. This is not hidden. Why did the public come out like this for his funeral? People knew him and his truth.
“Arshad Sharif’s truth will never be hidden. He sent a letter to the Islamabad High Court and President Arif Alvi saying that his life is in danger. He said the same to me and I advised him to leave the country. But he was so brave he didn’t want to go,” the PTI chief added.
On PTI leader Faisal Vawda’s press conference yesterday, Imran said he had seen many close people in his life change and show a different side during testing times.
“I was very saddened by what he did and I was not expecting it. This was done on request. I know on whose request this was done — dirty harry’s request.”
In a surprise media talk on Wednesday night, Vawda had alleged that blood would be shed and bodies would fall during the PTI long march — slated to commence from Lahore on Friday, October 28.
During the interview today, Imran alleged that “dirty harry” was very close to Vawda and he had “no doubt” that “all this drama about bloodshed [in the long march]” was done at the shadowy figure’s request.
Earlier in the day, PTI leader Asad Umar had said that his party chief never made any unconstitutional demands in “back door talks”.
In a media talk flanked by fellow party leaders Shah Mahmood Qureshi, Fawad Chaudhry, Shireen Mazari and Hammad Azhar, Umar said that the matters discussed behind closed doors were no “secret”.
“Imran Khan has discussed them in rallies and press conferences. The demands have been in front of the public since forever.”
Umar passed these comments in an apparent response to Lt Gen Anjum. In the press conference earlier today, the DG ISI — seemingly talking about Imran — had said that while citizens had the right to their opinion, why did “you praise him [the army chief] so much in the past if he was a traitor?”
“If you see him as a traitor, then why do you meet him through the back door? […] Don’t do this where you meet quietly at night through the back door and express your unconstitutional wishes but call [the army chief] a traitor in broad daylight. That’s a big contradiction between your words and your actions,” he had said.
Lt Gen Anjum also made the revelation that in March, Chief of Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa was given a “lucrative offer” for an extension in his tenure. “It was made in front of me. He rejected it because he wanted the institution to move forward from a controversial role to a constitutional role.”
In the media talk in Lahore later in the day, Umar said that Imran owned both the army and the country. “But will Imran Khan agree with every decision taken by the army? Are there actions or decisions that he criticises? Absolutely. This is his constitutional right.”
You may not agree with the criticism but in Imran Khan’s point of view, these are all things that if followed, would lead to the betterment of the army and the country, he said.
Umar also clarified that Imran had never said anything that would weaken the army. “So these things said should be reviewed […] maybe there is a need for consideration.”
Meanwhile, in response to a question, he confirmed meetings on an extension for Gen Bajwa. However, he added that if such talks behind closed doors were brought out into the open then “who knows what talks [Imran Khan] will start bringing out.”
At the beginning of the media talk today, PTI leader Shah Mahmood Qureshi said that two press conferences were held in the last few hours and both had “further complicated matters”.
“We think a new Pandora’s box has been opened,” he said, pointing that a prominent thread in the press conference held by the military’s top brass today was that the institutions had decided to stay apolitical.
“This was always our wish […] according to the Constitution, every institution has a role and if every institution remains and works within its role then it will be easier and no difficulties will be created.”
Talking about Vawda, Qureshi said that all of PTI’s rallies in the past had been peaceful. “During our May 25 caravan, the government inflicted violence on us and we couldn’t even fully defend ourselves.
“Our policy is very clear that our march is peaceful and will be within the limits of the law and will respect the Constitutional needs,” the former minister asserted.
Qureshi said that his presser was an attempt to spread fear among people. “Immediately after the announcement of the march, we received information that the people were enthusiastic and had started preparing for it.
“To lead them astray and create fear amongst them, this was a weak effort which failed,” Qureshi said, highlighting that live coverage was given to Vawda even by the state television.
He then called on people to participate in the long march, promising that it will be peaceful.
Qureshi continued that it was being said that PTI was trying to spur political instability. “We did not create political instability, instead, we are representing its solution, we think political instability has arrived and are presenting a democratic solution — elections.”
The PTI leader added that PTI had always respected institutions and defended them.
“To give the perception that we want to damage the sanctity of institution is contrary to reality. Imran Khan has had a stance and said again and again that a strong army is the need of Pakistan,” he said.
However, in an answer to a question from media persons, Qureshi said that if the military was apolitical, it “should not have held this press conference at all.”
Separately, Fawad Chaudhry said that along with the respect of the institutions, it was also important to respect the people’s choices.
Since the day of the no-confidence vote, the people of Pakistan have shown, not once but twice, who they want as the leader of the country.
“The press briefing held by the ISPR today, to be honest, I was shocked. See, if Rana Sanaullah or Khawaja Asif hold a press conference, we can respond to them. But press conferences held by institutions […] there is a certain level of respect attached to them. We can’t respond to them,” he said.
Chaudhry went on that military heads’ demand regarding an investigation in the cypher — which Imran has touted as evidence of a foreign conspiracy to oust his government — was fair, adding that PTI had been demanding a probe into it since the first day.
“The Supreme Court should tell us. The president wrote a letter for an investigation into the cypher. The question is that even if the cypher is untrue, why hasn’t it been probed?
“We want a powerful commission to be formed and the same should be done in the case of slain journalist Arshad Sharif,” Chaudhry added.
Meanwhile, former human rights minister Shireen Mazari said she was “very saddened” by the DG ISPR’s press conference and termed it as a totally “untruthful statement”.
She questioned how the DG ISPR had deduced that Arshad Sharif was under no threat, given that he was “brutally murdered” eventually.
Mazari said Sharif had told her that he was being targeted by assassins and there was a bounty on his head.
She said that Sharif was from a military family himself and had done many programmes in collaboration with the army. “What respect did you show [to him?] You got him martyred and whoever committed this brutal targeted murder are the same as those who threatened him and now our institutions are saying there was no threat,” she alleged.
Mazari added that a judicial commission should be formed to probe Sharif’s killing but also bemoaned that similar commissions in the past had either produced no results or their findings went missing.