PTI Chairman Imran Khan on Monday continued castigating former army chief Qamar Javed Bajwa for toppling his government in league with the ‘foreign hands’ and pushing the country into political and economic crises.
Mr Khan went on to lash out at the former army chief only a day after his coalition partner and Punjab Chief Minister Chaudhry Parvez Elahi strongly criticised the former prime minister for speaking against Gen Bajwa whom he considers their ‘benefactor’.
The PML-Q leader warned Mr Khan as well as all other PTI leaders that he would not tolerate anything spoken against Gen Bajwa and would respond in even harsher tone, besides allowing every party member to speak against the former army chief’s critics.
However, Imran Khan said the PTI and PML-Q were separate political entities and his ally had its own policy towards Gen Bajwa. Speaking to foreign media persons, he confirmed Mr Elahi’s statement that a signed advice to the Punjab governor to dissolve the provincial assembly was lying with him and it would be forwarded to the governor on Friday.
However, the latest developments with regard to the Punjab governor calling the chief minister to take a fresh vote of confidence and the PML-N filing a no-confidence motion against CM Elahi suggest that it’s unlikely the dissolution advice would be sent to the governor on Friday.
The PTI chief said he would continue holding Gen Bajwa responsible for removing his government, adding that he was currently not sure about the US role and that was why he wanted an inquiry into the cipher conspiracy.
He alleged that NAB was under the control of the former army chief and gave NRO to all the corrupt despite his strong resistance. “Gen Bajwa continued betraying me and imposed corrupt and plunderers to rule the 220 million population.”
When pointed out that the PDM was trying to persuade CM Elahi to join hands with the opposition and become its candidate to continue as the chief minister, Mr Khan said the PML-Q was an independent party and was free to hold consultations with anyone.
According to sources, the PTI chief said Mr Elahi was showing aggressive attitude to get a larger share of seats being allied party in the next general elections.
However, fearing Mr Elahi’s alliance with the PDM, sources told Dawn that the PTI had come to terms and wanted to begin serious talks on seat adjustment. They said the PML-Q had initially demanded 25 to 30 seats in the newly-carved Gujrat division, parts of south Punjab and even Sialkot.
Party’s senior leader Fawad Chaudhry said the PTI had tasked a three-member committee, led by vice chairman Shah Mahmood Qureshi, with discussing seat adjustment with the PML-Q. Mr Elahi, it may be mentioned, had made it clear to the PTI chairman that he would only talk to a committee comprising party’s secretary general Asad Umar, former defence minister Pervaiz Khattak and Punjab Assembly Speaker Sabtain Khan.
Though Mr Elahi had given a signed assembly dissolution advice to the PTI chief, the former had clearly stated that the military establishment did not want the assemblies to be dissolved in the current tough economic crisis. The sources said Mr Elahi’s statement clearly belied the establishment’s stance that they had become apolitical and neutral.
They said that in case the Punjab Assembly is dissolved, the appointment of an interim set-up would go in the hands of CM Elahi and opposition leader Hamza Shehbaz, keeping the PTI out of the process.
“In case both Elahi and Hamza do not reach a consensus, the ball will land in the court of the Election Commission of Pakistan, which as per PTI claims, is allegedly siding with the PDM government, and keep the Punjab’s ruling coalition out of the game,” a source close to the developments told Dawn.
Parvez Elahi had also stated in so many words that the establishment was also thinking that the incumbent government could impose an “economic emergency” for a year that could delay elections beyond 2023, the source added.
The PTI chairman is also looking for a green signal from the establishment as he told media persons in another meeting that he had given one-week delayed time for the dissolution of assemblies so that the powers that be should brood and work out an implementable plan.
Responding to a question about backdoor channel talks between President Arif Alvi and Finance Minister Ishaq Dar, the PTI chief said he was hoping against hope that these talks would conclude on finalising an early date for general elections. He said he knew the PDM government did not want to hold general elections early.
With regard to retired Gen Bajwa, Mr Khan said he and Mr Elahi had different experiences with the former army chief and denied that anything was decided between him and the Punjab CM to discuss the ex-army chief in his Saturday’s speech.
“Parvez Elahi remained with me for almost an hour after the speech but did not even mention his displeasure,” Mr Khan was quoted as saying. The PTI chief also said Mr Elahi needed to stay in alliance with him, if the latter wanted to save his politics.
PDM government scolded
In a series of tweets, the PTI chief scolded the PDM government for failing to control terrorism, pushing the economy to fall flat and still not reconciling to hold early elections and eventually bring political and economic stability in the country.
In his tweets, Mr Khan stated that this “imported government had failed to deal with the 50 per cent increase in terrorism in Pakistan with incidents from Chaman to Swat to Lakki Marwat to Bannu besides tearing apart country’s economy”.
He said the PDM government also failed to deal with attacks from the international border by security forces of a ‘friendly’ Afghan government. “While our soldiers, police and local people are giving daily sacrifices with their lives, the worst part is that this increasing terrorist threat and attacks from across our Western border are finding no space in the discourse of this government of a cabal of crooks.”
Mr Khan stated that all they were interested in was their NRO2 [deal] and its preservation. “Therefore despite economy tanking, they are petrified of holding elections which is the only way to stabilise economy through political stabilisation,” he commented.
As Chief Minister Parvez Elahi chided his predecessor Usman Buzdar for victimising him and neglecting Gujrat district in development works, the latter said he could also say many a thing, but this was not the occasion. “My message is love and respect to my colleagues,” Mr Buzdar added.
Stating that he remained the chief minister for more than three years and did a lot of development works, ensured good governance and never indulged in victimisation of anybody, Mr Buzdar said any criticism against him was actually directed to the PTI’s narrative. He said Gujrat district was given due development funds as part of the districts development package.