Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf Chairman Imran Khan on Friday said if reports of Chief of Army Staff (COAS) Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa contacting the U.S. to seek early release of funds from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) were true, “it means we [Pakistan] are getting weaker.”
Nikkei Asia, earlier in the day, reported that the Army chief had called senior U.S. officials and urged them to help Islamabad in securing early release of a $1.2 billion tranche of an IMF Extended Fund Facility. The news comes as Pakistan reels from an economic crisis, in part related to a looming balance of payments crisis.
Talking to private broadcaster ARY News, Khan—whose government featured many instances of the Army chief reaching out to foreign officials on its behalf—said it was not the job of the Army chief to help the government resolve its economic woes. Claiming that nothing is given for free, he also questioned what the U.S. would demand in return for any aid it provides Pakistan.
Criticizing the incumbent government’s performance, he said he feels somewhat “sorry” for them in this situation. “Sometimes they target the judiciary, sometimes they say they favored Khan by bringing the no-confidence motion, while some say that the Army has trapped them by mistrusting us,” he said.
Reiterating his demand for early elections, the ousted prime minister said political stability can only result from fair and transparent polls. “Those sitting in power are afraid of elections,” he alleged. “If they [coalition government] had announced early elections, today the country would have been saved from this disaster,” he claimed, saying one of the reasons for the economic crisis was the lack of a roadmap of the coalition government.
“At this moment, the most alarming thing is the lack of trust of the market, somebody has to be held accountable for the current situation,” he said.
To a question on a report published by the Financial Times on Abraaj founder Arif Naqvi’s funding of the PTI, Khan admitted he had known Naqvi for 20-25 years. “He [Naqvi] was benefitting the country,” he said, adding that the tycoon had given “hefty amounts” for his cancer hospital and organized two fundraising dinners for the PTI in 2012 in addition to arranging a cricket match in London and meeting with top businessmen in Dubai. “Money is collected like this around the world,” he claimed.
Maintaining the PTI was the first party that collected money through political fundraising, he reiterated claims of the party having a database of 40,000 donors. “Approximately Rs. 9 billion are collected every year for the cancer hospital. PPP and PMLN do not even have a database,” he claimed, adding that all transactions were conducted via proper banking channels and nothing was hidden.
Describing the U.S. case against Naqvi as a “big tragedy,” Khan noted it was still pending. “Nobody lost anything, everybody received their due shares; however, there is some irregularity. Back in 2012, there were no allegations against Naqvi as he was the bright star of Pakistan at that time,” he said, adding that all of this happened with “poor” Naqvi in 2019.