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Imran Khan recommends ‘extension’ of army chief’s term until formation of a new govt

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Pakistan´s former prime minister Imran Khan speaks to media after appearing before the Anti-Terrorism Court in Islamabad on September 12, 2022. — AFP
Pakistan´s former prime minister Imran Khan speaks to media after appearing before the Anti-Terrorism Court in Islamabad on September 12, 2022. — AFP

ISLAMABAD: PTI Chairman Imran Khan on Monday recommended “deferring” the retirement of  Chief of Army Staff, General Qamar Javed Bajwa.

The former premier’s comments came during an interview with a private channel in which he suggested that the appointment of the new army chief should be postponed until the new government is elected.

Khan added that a new government should elect the new head of the military. Following a change of stance, Khan also said that he was “now ready to talk with the government about snap polls.”

“I am ready to discuss the election,” the PTI chief said.

Commenting on the contempt of court case, Khan said that he would have apologised during his appearance at the Islamabad High Court (IHC) if he was allowed to comment.

Khan further added that he has received unprecedented respect in the last four months; however, “I am not rushing towards elections for personal interests.”

“Political stability will come from elections,” he reiterated.

The PTI chief said that he regrets if something was misinterpreted and was ready to take back what he said during his public gathering.

“I could have said what they wanted if they had allowed me to speak,” he said.

Meeting with ex-US diplomat

Khan also said that he was “not anti-American”, clarifying his position following his meeting with a former US diplomat and CIA analyst Robin Raphael at Banigala during which the two discussed matters of mutual interest, mainly in the backdrop of Pakistan-US relations, according to Geo News.

“I’ve known Robin Rafael for a long time. She is not associated with the government, but is working with a think tank,” he said, commenting on his meeting with the former US diplomat.

Khan stressed good relations with the US but warned against it being used for personal interests.

“We should not be used like we were used during the War on Terror,” he remarked.

The PTI chief added that his party’s relationship with the US was not tense, but tensions arose after Khan visited Russia and Vladimir Putin attacked Ukraine.

“I didn’t know,” he stated, adding that the US was upset following its tensions with Russia.

PTI’s path aligns with Pakistan’s Constitution: Imran Khan

During the interview, Khan said that he had been involved in politics for the last 26 years and his party had always followed a path which aligns with the country’s Constitution.

Khan, while taking a jibe at the coalition government’s performance, said that the country will be stuck in a quagmire if the incumbent leaders’ tenure is prolonged further.

He said that the economic fallout of the floods will be witnessed during the winter season. “Tell me […] do they have a solution? Exports are falling, loans are rising, remittances are falling […] your capacity to give loans is shrinking.”

“The economy is shrinking while unemployment is rising,” Khan maintained, adding that such record high inflation — which clocked in at 27.3% in August — was never seen before in the history of Pakistan.

The ousted prime minister hinted that the government will “further raise the electricity prices” as the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has asked the coalition government to increase power tariffs.

Reiterating his “foreign conspiracy” stance, the PTI chief asked: “Those who brought these people after removing our government, I want to ask […] were they thinking of Pakistan? Everyone knows the history of these two families.”

Commenting on the dynastic politics of the Sharif and Zardari families, the PTI chief said that these two families had ruled Pakistan for 32 years. “If they had a good track record and were geniuses, then it would have been a different situation but they destroyed the institutions of the country as they were involved in corruption,” he maintained.

‘No big dam constructed in 50 years’

Lamenting the impact of floods in Pakistan, the former prime minister said that the 2010 floods as well as the current ones have caused immense devastation, particularly in Sindh.

“Rice fields have not been cultivated due to stagnant flood water in Sindh. [The construction of] dams is a long-term solution [to curb] floods, but no big dam has been constructed in 50 years,” Khan said, adding that Sindh’s major issue is the lack of a drainage system.

“Homes are constructed on nullahs in Karachi,” he said while stressing the need for devising a proper drainage plan to deal with the issue.

He added that he introduced the Billion Tree Tsunami Programme to mitigate the effects of climate change.

Talking about the state of the economy, Khan said that it was on a rapid decline, terming it as the “next challenge”.

Khan also commented on the coalition government’s deal with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and criticised its performance following increasing inflation in the country.

“[They] signed the IMF programme and increased the cost of petrol and electricity,” Khan said, adding the value of the rupee continues to decline.

“Given where they are going, I’m afraid the government has no solution,” he remarked as he emphasised how stability in the country was only possible through elections.

He further stated that the country is already facing floods and it would be devastating if it defaults.

“I already said that no one would be able to handle the economy if political instability continued. I had warned those who possessed power,” the former premier said, adding that he also sent former finance minister Shaukat Tarin to explain the matter to the establishment.

Khan said that he warned that the economy would not be handled by conspiracies and that all credit agencies have downgraded them.

“They could not manage the economy and the stock market plunged,” he said, adding that the government increased the prices of items following IMF’s pressure.

“They had no plan, but to only have their corruption cases pardoned,” he said.

Pakistan needs $30 billion worth of external loans.

“Even if we get funds from the World Bank, IMF, and Asian Development Fund we would get $8 billion,” he said, questioning where would Pakistan get the remaining funds from.

‘No political stability, no economic stability’

The former prime minister said that Pakistan does not have an easy option, “whichever party comes into power will have to face a mountain of problems.”

Shedding light on PTI’s strategy, Khan said that whenever his party will come back in power their first step will be to ensure political stability. “If there is no political stability there can be no economic stability,” he said, adding that the current path the country is heading towards the situation will soon get out of everyone’s hands.

“All Pakistanis should be worried,” he warned. “The kind of restrictions they are imposing today were witnessed during former president Pervez Musharraf’s tenure. They tried to scare, suppress and intimidate PTI leaders and workers”.

“I haven’t seen an election commission so biased,” the PTI chief said, narrating the entire episode of the chief election commissioner’s (CEC) appointment.

Khan accused CEC of “sabotaging the electronic voting machine (EVM) project”, adding that the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) made all efforts to defeat PTI in Punjab’s July 17 polls.

‘Ready to hold talks’

“The coalition parties are scared of losing the next general elections,” he said, adding that only nations progress which takes decisions on merit.

Khan further added that the army chief’s appointment should be based on merit. “Neither Asif Ali Zardari nor Nawaz Sharif is qualified for taking this decision on merit,” he elaborated.

Berating all comments of lawyers, and political analysts, he said that no matter what they say the country is facing an “unusual situation.”

“We should now think of how to get the country out of the quagmire,” he said, reiterating that he is ready to hold talks with the incumbent government if they are willing to hold free and fair snap polls.


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