Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan on Friday ramped up his criticism of the role played by “neutrals” in the vote of no-confidence that led to his ouster as prime minister, claiming “they” had failed to act despite his warnings of the “plot” being hatched against his government.
Addressing a rally in Mardan, he once again reiterated allegations that he had been ousted by his party’s political rivals with the support of a “foreign conspiracy.” Claiming that he had even sent former finance minister Shaukat Tarin to the “neutrals” to warn them that Pakistan’s economy would be “ruined” if the conspiracy against him were not stopped, he accused them of not playing their role in halting the “conspiracy” against him. He also alleged that the no-confidence move was “allowed” to succeed to replace him with “looters and plunderers.”
Khan has been alleging that a foreign conspiracy is behind his ouster since the end of March, citing a diplomatic cable—that he initially described as a “threat letter”—authored by Pakistan’s then-ambassador to the U.S. The memo, based off the envoy’s conversations with a U.S. diplomat, contains “undiplomatic” language that amounts to “blatant interference,” according to the National Security Committee, but falls short of proving any conspiracy.
In Mardan, he said that he was visiting various cities across Pakistan to prepare people for the PTI’s long march on Islamabad and secure a call for early elections. “People will decide who has the right to run the country’s affairs,” he said, adding that people sitting in the U.K. had no right to decide Pakistan’s fate—a reference to P.M. Shehbaz Sharif and PMLN members of the federal cabinet decamping to London for a huddle with party leader Nawaz Sharif.
Reiterating that he aimed to gather over 2 million people in the federal capital to demand early elections and rid Pakistan of the “imported” government, he said this was a “revolution” that would help the country break free of the influence of foreign powers.
The PTI, including the ousted prime minister, have been increasingly referring to “neutrals” in their calls for early elections. This has widely been perceived as a reference to the security establishment and the armed forces—who have repeatedly stressed that they are now politically neutral—which was seemingly verified during a meeting between Khan and a select group of journalists in Islamabad.
According to local media, Khan “confirmed” that every time he referred to “neutrals,” he was talking about the country’s armed forces. He reportedly told them that people in the establishment were attempting to contact them, but he had “blocked” their numbers, adding that ‘differences’ between him and the “establishment” had arisen due to his refusal to replace then-Punjab chief minister Usman Buzdar and then-spy chief Lt. Gen. Faiz Hameed. He said he would be willing to talk to the establishment again once new elections had been announced.
Media reports have also stated that Khan had claimed he had “never imagined” that the establishment would be willing to “impose criminals” on the country. “Instead of handing the reins of power to these people, it would have been better if an atomic bomb had been dropped on Pakistan,” he said, somewhat justifying his opposition’s claims that he would rather see the country destroyed than not be in power.
During his interaction with the press, the PTI chairman also said that his government had no say in the working of the judiciary and the National Accountability Bureau, while alleging that “those who had an influence on these institutions” had failed to support his accountability drive. “In early days of my government, some 30 MPAs [of opposition] in Punjab wanted to make a forward bloc and join us after which politics of N-league would have been finished. But these MPAs received calls from powerful quarters that they should stay where they were,” he alleged.
Also on Friday, in a series of posts on Twitter, the ousted prime minister said he had warned the ‘neutrals’ that if a “conspiracy” against his government succeeded, the country would face an unprecedented economic crisis. “Market awaiting policy and action, which imported government has failed to provide. Shaukat Tarin and I had warned the ‘neutrals’ that if conspiracy succeeded, our fragile economic recovery would go into a tailspin. That is what has now happened,” he claimed.
Khan’s statements come within days of the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) issuing a statement urging Pakistan’s political leadership to refrain from trying to drag it into politics. “The Army has taken a strong exception to intensified and deliberate attempts to drag its name into the country’s ongoing political discourse by some political leaders, journalists and analysts,” it said.