‘My govt was
under sway of
Bajwa due to thin
majority’: Imran Khan

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ISLAMABAD: Former prime minister Imran Khan has hinted at his readiness for talks with other political parties, insisting that a politician is “always ready to hold dialogue”, but emphasised that the PTI would prefer to join the opposition instead of forming a “weak government”.

Talking to the journalists during the hearings of Toshakhana and £190 million corruption cases at Adiala Jail, Mr Khan claimed that his previous government was under the sway of former army chief retired Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa due to PTI’s slim parliamentary majority in the parliament.

Former prime minister Imran Khan
Former prime minister Imran Khan

However, Mr Khan was confident that his party would secure a sweeping victory in the upcoming elections and claimed that 90 per cent of armed forces personnel would vote for his party, which will contest without a unified election symbol.

Mr Khan also acknowledged the existence of ‘khalai makhlooq’ — celestial beings or aliens, a colloquial term that refers to intelligence officials, to criticise the military’s alleged meddling in politics — and claimed that these forces were instigators behind the legal cases against him.

He refuted any full-scale support from the establishment in prior elections, arguing that the PTI was a victim of rigging, having lost multiple seats with narrow margins. “We had been weakened by design (so that they) get hold of the government,” he said.

Mr Khan reminisced about Gen Bajwa’s initial cordial behaviour after the 2018 election, claiming that the former army chief later “started controlling us”.

He regretted that the PTI should sit on the opposition benches instead of taking the helm after the 2018 elections. He said the party was ready to join the opposition if it failed to secure a majority in the next elections.

On a question about military deployment at polling stations, Mr Khan said, “Pak army is our army, and 90pc of them will vote for the PTI.” He also cited Gen Bajwa’s comments on the PTI’s popularity with the armed forces.

On the possibility of dialogue with political parties, Mr Khan said a politician is “always ready to hold dialogues”, pointing out that “I visited Iran to de-escalate tensions when I was the prime minister”.

The former premier said the country’s economy could be revived only through a stable government, stressing that the recently formed Special Investment Facilitation Council (SIFC) could not bring investment without political stability.

He described the statement of his former principal secretary Azam Khan in the cipher case as “factual”, emphasising that Mr Azam spoke the truth despite being detained for 40 days. He said Mr Azam said the National Security Committee decided to issue demarche to the United States because of that country’s intervention in Pakistan’s internal affairs.

Mr Khan claimed that the cipher was still with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and he received a rephrased version of the diplomatic cable. He also criticised the PML-N for “befooling people” after “crippling the economy” during their 16 months in power.

‘Unfair polls to aggravate instability’

The PTI founder warned that if fair polls were not conducted then it would lead to further “instability and uncertainty”. He pointed out that the PTI candidates “are being harassed and detained” by the authorities to stop them from contesting elections.

In a comment on the crackdown on the former ruling party, the ex-PM said the establishment could not “dismantle the party since it has roots in the masses”. He also warned ‘turncoats’ that their politics would end if they parted ways with the PTI. Mr Khan claimed that the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) deliberately delayed the matter related to the PTI’s intra-party elections to take “a stern and sudden action” to deprive the political party of its electoral symbol. In a reference to attempts by the presidency to bring down the political temperature, Mr Khan said that President Dr Arif Alvi had made efforts to mediate but to no avail.

Speaking about his rival Nawaz Sharif, the PTI founder said that the country would suffer “irreparable loss” if attempts were made to impose an ‘absconder’ on the country. Mr Khan quipped that Nawaz Sharif cancelled his Layyah rally because his party did not have the strength to organise a power show. He claimed that the PTI would hold the ‘biggest ever’ gathering even if he was released from jail only a couple of days before the elections.

Cases in courts

The former premier also talked about his cases in courts, and said despite the disposal of his plea by the Lahore High Court regarding the rejection of nomination papers, the order in this regard was not released.

Similarly, his plea against disqualification was also not being heard, he said, adding that Nawaz Sharif, on the other hand, had been given a clean chit by the courts and allowed to contest elections. He further said that another petition filed by him against violations of human rights was also pending before the Supreme Court for a long time.

The former PM claimed that there was no rule of law in the country but still, he would not take the law into his own hands, as he was a politician and would “play till the last ball”.

Imran Khan alleged that a small jewellery shop of an Indian owner was assigned the evaluation of the Toshakhana gifts and the higher price was quoted to please the ‘higher authorities’.