PTI ‘steps back’ from next COAS appointment issue

Imran vows legal battle over gifts sale allegations


Imran Adnan November 16, 2022
PTI chief Imran Khan is addressing the nation from Shaukat Khanum Hospital in Lahore on Friday, November 4. SCREENGRAB

LAHORE:

Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) chief Imran Khan on Wednesday indicated that his party has now taken a ‘hands-off’ approach to the imminent appointment of a new army chief, saying that it has “taken a step back” on the matter.

The former prime minister emphasised that no army chief will ever go against the institution, state or the people.

"Let them do what they want. Nawaz Sharif wants to appoint an army chief who will protect his interests. No army chief will go against the nation's interests," the PTI chief said commenting on the matter in conversation with senior journalists at his residence in Lahore.

However, he lashed out at PML-N supremo Nawaz Sharif – who is allegedly calling the shots in the matter – for seeking to appoint someone to ensure his protection in all cases.

Separately, in an address via video link, Imran accused the government of bringing changes to the Pakistan Army Act ahead of a new army chief's appointment for "its personal benefits" as he cautioned that making such crucial appointments for political advantages would deal a blow to the country's institutions.

The former prime minister said that all the appointments made by the coalition government were self-serving and therefore, he feared that the rulers would end up harming the institutions by amending the army act for their own political interests.

The former prime minister expressed his misgivings as the imminent change of guard in the army has been in the spotlight as he insists that the PML-N-led ruling coalition, cobbled together through a parliamentary vote after his removal, does not have the right to appoint a new chief.

He has repeatedly said that merit should be followed in such key appointments and that the crucial selection should be made by the elected government after new polls are held.

Addressing the participants of his ‘Haqeeqi Azadi March’ in several cities across the country, Imran also slammed Prime Minister Shehbaz for consulting PML-N supremo Nawaz Sharif over the army chief's appointment, saying that a convict could not take important decisions for the country.

"This is a very important time for Pakistan and all its decisions should be taken on merit," he stressed.

The former prime minister also maintained that he was wary of the appointers and not those who would be appointed.

Lashing out at PML-N supremo Nawaz Sharif, Imran asked what interest he would have in Pakistan when all his assets are stacked away abroad. “His only interest in Pakistan is to protect his ill-gotten wealth by any means,” Imran asserted.

In 1993, he highlighted, a former IG submitted a report in the court that how Sharifs made appointments in the police department after taking bribes, alleging criminals were recruited in the police – a move he said led to the eventual collapse of the entire department.

“I only demand the appointment of the army chief on merit. It will benefit the institution,” he reiterated.

Imran explained that the motive behind taking out his long march was to tell the nation that the rulers – whom he labelled as “thieves” – have been imposed through the “conspiracy” and that it was not acceptable for his party to back the elements of injustice and violence.

One of the purposes of the march, he continued, was to bring to light the way PM Shehbaz and his son – Hamza Shehbaz – narrowly escaped conviction in a corruption case worth Rs16 billion at the time of the conspiracy through an NRO – a reference to concessional agreements with opposition leaders promulgated by former military dictator Gen Pervez Musharraf.

The rule of law was not possible if the rulers kept giving themselves NROs, warning that the practice would turn the country’s judicial system into the ‘law of jungle’.

Meanwhile, Imran once again called on the chief justice of Pakistan to launch a probe into the Arshad Sharif murder case, Azam Swati custodial torture and the issue of the Wazirabad FIR.

“This is a defining moment for the country and we are requesting you to grant freedom to the country by giving us justice,” he said in a live video address today.

“Our justice system is the only ray of light in this darkness,” the PTI chief said, adding that the nation was looking at the CJP.

He said if the system failed to deliver justice, then the “common man would not even think of getting justice”.

The former premier reiterated the only solution to the current economic quagmire was free and fair elections in the country and underscored that economic stability cannot be possible in the country without political stability.

Urging his supporters to get ready for heading to Rawalpindi, Imran said he would further reveal his plan about heading towards Rawalpindi within two days, vowing to not do any sort of violation, while staging the PTI’s protest – in a peaceful manner.

During his address via video link, Imran also addressed the allegations levelled by Umar Farooq Zahoor who claimed during an interview with a private channel that the PTI government had sold to him expensive Graff wristwatch — gifted to Imran by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman — for $2 million, worth approximately Rs280m at the time of sale in 2019.

Imran said he would approach the courts against the media house in London and the businessman in Dubai for his “character assassination.

Imran said he did not have any hope in Pakistan’s legal system and had therefore decided to file a case in London against the private TV channel and it would be made to answer for his character assassination.

“They brought that fraud and did a whole programme where he said Imran Khan’s watch was sold at such a high price … and they did a whole propaganda campaign [against me].”

He further accused the media house of churning out propaganda, alleging that the said news channel was being used for “agenda”.

“This person they used and the programme they did […] if they did journalism with integrity then they’d have known he was a fraud […] he has no credibility and they wouldn’t have ever used such a witness,” the PTI chief said.

Meanwhile, PTI leader Fawad Chaudhry also denied the allegations of unlawfully selling the state gifts but admitted that they were legally sold in the market.

Sharing details in a press conference, Fawad said that the Saudi king gifted the watch during Imran’s trip to Saudi Arabia in 2018 and the watch was deposited in the Toshakhana department according to the procedure. He said according to the appraisal of the gift, its price was valued at approximately RS100m.

He contended that at the time, public office holders were allowed pay 20 per cent of the evaluated price of a gift and retain it and revealed that the watch was later “sold in the market for approximately Rs57m".

He further clarified that the capital gains tax was paid for it accordingly and it was declared in Imran’s returns as well as before the election commission.

He denied that the watch was sold to anyone named Umar Zahoor. “Neither was it ever handed over to Farah Gujjar for selling … and Ahsan Saleem Gujjar, who is Farah’s husband, clearly said [last] night that she never met him (Zahoor).”

Fawad also said that Zahoor has had a “very shady history”, adding that the Dubai-business man was wanted by Norway, Switzerland, Turkiye and Pakistan since 2009-10 over various financial and other crimes.

Despite orders from the Lahore High Court to place him on ECL, Zahoor took his minor daughters abroad illegally after obtaining their passports under fictitious names and parentage.

Fawad further alleged that Zahoor had named Shahzad Akbar because the former accountability minister wanted his return to Pakistan.

“But soon after the government changed, a first information report was registered against Akbar and late Federal Investigation Agency director Mohammad Rizwan at Islamabad’s Kohsar police station. Later, Zahoor’s name was removed from the ECL," he added.

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