Pakistan’s prime minister claims opposition’s ‘pressuring’ of Army to oust him is treasonous
Dismissing the united opposition’s demands that he resign by Jan. 31 or risk a long march on the federal capital, Prime Minister Imran Khan on Friday claimed that he would “think about resigning” if the Pakistan Democratic Movement managed to sustain a sit-in for even a week.
During an interview with Samaa TV’s Paras Jahanzaib, he said that he was a “long march specialist”—having staged a sit-in in Islamabad for 126 days—and claimed that the public would not join the opposition’s movement. “I am challenging [them]; if they spend even one week [in Islamabad], I will actually start thinking about resigning,” he said.
Stressing that the PDM did not enjoy the public’s support, he claimed that last week’s rally in Lahore proved this, as it was a “flop show.”
To a question on how the government would survive if the entire opposition resigned from all assemblies, the prime minister once again hinted that by-elections were the answer. “If they resign, it would be better for Pakistan,” he claimed, adding that if they actually staged a long march, it would “make it clear whether I have to resign or they have to.”
To another question on whether the government was willing to engage the opposition in dialogue, Khan claimed Parliament was the correct platform for all debates. However, he reiterated, that the opposition was only interested in amnesty. “They [opposition leaders] are thinking that by these dramas they could scare me and get an NRO,” he said, referring to the political amnesty granted by former military ruler Pervez Musharraf in 2007.
The prime minister repeated the opposition’s claims of him being a “puppet,” saying it was clear they were only willing to talk to the security establishment. “This means they’re putting pressure on the Army to remove a democratic government,” he claimed, adding that this was happening because the PDM leaders had realized he would not grant them any leniency.
In asking the Pakistan Army to remove a democratic government, he said, “I believe Article 6 [of the Constitution] applies; this is a case of treason.” He also claimed that the opposition’s backup plan was to ‘blackmail’ the military into ousting the Chief of the Army Staff and the Inter-Services Intelligence chief.
The prime minister reiterated his allegations of the PDM being supported by anti-democratic forces such as former Pakistani envoy to the U.S. Hussain Haqqani. “Why is Nawaz [Sharif] so popular in India? He has become a hero there. He is doing what India is doing. Degrading Pakistan, destroying the economy,” he claimed.
To a question on whether the government’s decision to conduct Senate elections early was a sign of it becoming troubled by the PDM, the prime minister claimed the law allowed for this. “We have a margin of one month, according to the Constitution,” he said. “The elections will be held through the process of open ballot, which will ensure votes are not sold,” he said. “Horse-trading has happened before and this is why we kicked out 20 lawmakers [in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa],” he added.
On why this issue was not taken up in Parliament—as questioned by the opposition—the prime minister claimed the attorney general had advised the government that it required a constitutional amendment. “But despite this, we will go to the Supreme Court to ask it to interpret the law for us,” he added.
Army is subordinate
According to Khan, there is a “lot of anger” within the armed forces over the opposition’s “attacks” on the military leaders. “I must praise Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa for this today. To attack an Army chief in this manner; a reaction comes from the Army,” he said. “There would be a big reaction if somebody else was leading the Army,” he claimed, adding that the Army chief was “tolerating this because he believes in democracy.”
Ousted prime minister Nawaz Sharif, in several speeches delivered via video-link from London, has alleged that Army chief Gen. Bajwa and ISI head Lt. Gen. Faiz Hameed orchestrated his ouster in 2017 and rigged the 2018 general elections to “impose the incompetent Imran Khan” on Pakistan.
During his interview, Khan stressed that the Pakistan Army was subordinate to him. “The Pakistan Army is not sitting above me. It’s below me,” he said, claiming that all institutions fully supported his government’s decisions and policies.
The prime minister reiterated his claims that the security establishment had helped the PMLN secure a victory in the 2013 general elections but their ties had become strained because it did not support him in 2018.
To a question on massive inflation, the prime minister claimed the solution was “wealth generation,” adding that this was being reflected in his government’s policies. “So what should people do while they wait for this wealth generation? Commit suicide?” questioned Jahanzaib, resulting in the prime minister saying: “Money cannot fall from the sky.”
Khan also dismissed media reports of any Pakistani representative visiting Israel, claiming there was no need to do so because Islamabad does not recognize the Middle East nation. He claimed this was part of an “orchestrated campaign,” adding that the EU DisinfoLab’s report had exposed an Indian network that was spreading misinformation about Pakistan.