Former prime minister Imran Khan on Thursday said he could not even think of appointing an army chief against the rules of merit and rubbished speculations that he wanted former Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) director general Lt Gen Faiz Hameed to be appointed to that post.
The PTI chairman added that he wanted to pursue an independent foreign policy whether "someone" liked it or not. "My independent foreign policy was clear from day one," Imran told interviewers during a podcast while commenting on the reasons for his rifts with the security establishment.
"If someone didn't like it, then I don't know about it," he said and went on to add that it was his prerogative as the prime minister and the chief executive of the country to pursue this policy.
Talking about Lt Gen Faiz, Imran said he wanted him to continue serving as the ISI chief during the difficult winter season when the fallout of the Afghan infighting was imminent.
"You don't replace an intelligence chief during difficult circumstances," he added. “[Because of that] there arose speculations that I wanted Lt Gen Faiz to be the next army chief.”
Imran also claimed that unlike PML-N supremo Nawaz Sharif, he never wanted to control the army as he had a “clean record” and “did not fear anyone”.
"I have never had an issue with army because I have never interfered [in their affairs]. I never wanted to bring my own army chief. I always wanted to strengthen the institutions of army, police and judiciary.”
Last year, reports had surfaced of an alleged standoff between the military and the PTI-led government over the appointment of Lt Gen Nadeem Anjum as the new ISI chief.
The army had announced on October 6, 2021 that the former ISI chief, Lt Gen Faiz Hameed, had been appointed the Peshawar corps commander, while Lt Gen Anjum was appointed in his place.
But the Prime Minister’s Office had not issued an official notification of Lt Gen Anjum's appointment until three weeks later, leading to speculations of rifts in civil-military relations.
After delays, the Prime Minister’s Office had eventually notified the appointment of Lt Gen Anjum as the new ISI chief on October 26.
The former premier also criticised the policy of "neutrality" of institutions. “One is only supporting falsehood if they choose to remain neutral in a battle between truth and falsehood.”
The former premier claimed that an independent foreign policy did not mean that his government was anti-America. “In fact, I would say I am not even anti-Indian. I am against the racist policies and Kashmir policies of BJP and RSS. Even in America, I had good relations with the Trump administration."
Imran claimed that the reason the US turned against him was that he was unwilling to compromise on the policies that benefitted the 22 billion people of Pakistan.
"They [the US] wanted us to cancel the Russia trip, stop trade with them, and limit [our] relationship with China. They are asking for bases here to stop international terrorism in Afghanistan," he added. “I would never let Pakistan sabotage itself in someone else's war.”
He further claimed that the US thought they could use Pakistan like a tissue paper, like they did during the war on terror. "This is the number one reason why they conspired [against me] and then they found receptive people."
Imran also disclosed the reason for his fallout with PTI leaders Jahangir Khan Tareen and Aleem Khan.
He added that the differences with Tareen arose when his government started investigating the sugar scandal, whereas Aleem wanted to legalise a 300-acre land he had “illegally” bought along the bed of the River Ravi.
On Friday while addressing a gathering in his hometown Mianwali, Imran told his party activists to remain prepared for the long march to Islamabad, saying he would announce the final date any day after May 20.
He added that “a sea of people” would reach Islamabad to demand fresh elections. "Let people decide who will rule us. We will not accept any imported government."
Referring to his former aide Shahbaz Gill's recent accident, Imran warned the government that if it touched any PTI activist in the future, he would hold the "three stooges and their handlers" responsible.
Imran pledged to continue his "jihad" against the incumbent government’s leaders, who he described as "looters".
"[PM] Shehbaz Sharif, you lodged a false FIR against me, and jailed [MNA] Rashid Shafique [in connection with the Masjid-i-Nabwi incident]. Our women and children will take part in the march in Islamabad. If you try to stop it or lodge a similar FIR, then you will be responsible for what will happen.”
He claimed that the PTI's Punjab government was toppled through bribery, adding that the then-opposition should be ashamed of paying people to switch loyalties. He questioned the judiciary why it had not taken suo motu action over the events.
"If our courts can be opened at midnight, why can’t these thieves be disqualified? If these looters come to your constituencies, you have to decide about them. These people who betrayed their country, the Constitution, nation and voters should be taught a lesson by you so that in future, they should be afraid of repeating such actions."
The PTI chairman is holding a series of rallies, starting from Mianwali to May 20. Azhar Mashwani, a party leader, tweeted that the next rally would take place in Jhelum on May 10, followed by Attock on May 12, Sialkot on May 14, Faisalabad on May 15 and Chakwal on May 19.
Comments are moderated and generally will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive.
For more information, please see our Comments FAQ