ISLAMABAD: A journalist has attributed certain claims to former army chief Gen (retd) Qamar Bajwa, confirming PMLN supremo Nawaz Sharif had directed Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif to go for elections, but retracted his direction when PTI chief Imran Khan announced a long march to claim credit for the polls.
This was stated by Shahzeb Khanzada in Geo News programme Aaj Shazeb Khanzada kay Saath.
In his message to some journalists, Gen Bajwa has denied giving any interview to journalist Shahid Maitla, and said he would be sending a legal notice to him. Maitla, however, insists that he interviewed Bajwa in February 2023.
Shahzeb said PMLN has claimed that Nawaz Sharif had directed PM Shehbaz to dissolve the National Assembly before May 25, and this decision had been communicated to Imran Khan. The PTI chief, however, announced a long march to claim credit for the elections. The claim attributed to Bajwa confirms the PMLN’s claim.
As claimed by Maitla, Bajwa said he met Shehbaz Sharif when he took over as prime minister, and asked him about his plans for government. The PM reportedly told Bajwa that he would announce elections after enactment of two or three laws. According to Maitla’s claims, Bajwa also wanted new elections and a new government at the helm with fresh mandate, but Maulana Fazlur Rehman and Asif Zardari wanted the government to continue for the remaining period of the term.
Bajwa, as reported by Maitla, said that after April 10, Lt-Gen Faiz started asking him to stay until elections, besides advising him to meet Imran Khan.
According to Maitla, Bajwa said the PM and Malik Ahmad Khan visited him in May 2022, and informed him that elections would take place on September 5, if the government does not announce the budget, or on October 5 if it presents the budget. Then the PM went to London.
Bajwa reportedly said Malik Ahmad visited him again on May 19 to tell him that Nawaz Sharif had decided to go for elections and the PM was going to resign on May 20. Shehbaz had his resignation speech written by Irfan Siddiqui. Meanwhile, a top agency official came and asked who would negotiate with the IMF in Qatar on May 25 if the PM quits on May 20.
According to Maitla’s claim, Bajwa sent a message to Shah Mehmood Qureshi to stop Imran Khan, who was addressing a press conference, from announcing the long march. Qureshi told Imran that Bajwa wanted to talk to him, but Imran refused to talk. This refusal was also broadcast during the press conference. Bajwa reportedly said the PMLN leadership visited him in the evening to tell him that they would face Imran with full force.
When Gen Bajwa was asked by Shahid Maitla if Imran Khan was saved from disqualification by him in the Banigala case, he replied that Gen Faiz Hameed had told him that Khan’s residence papers were not complete, and he might be disqualified.
According to Shahid Maitla, Gen Faiz also quoted former chief justice Saqib Nisar as saying that if Imran was disqualified, who would be left to run the country. Gen Bajwa said he also agreed with the assertion that who would be made the prime minister if Imran Khan was disqualified. Khan’s 40-year-old money trail was not available, as some banks concerned had already closed down. However, Imran Khan was saved from disqualification ultimately, and Jehangir Tareen was disqualified.
According to Maitla, when Gen Bajwa was asked if the establishment was against Hamza Shehbaz becoming the chief minister of Punjab, he replied he had expressed his anger with Shehbaz Sharif on the issue. Bajwa said he had harshly questioned Shehbaz for appointing his son as the chief minister and he listened to him with head bowed.
Shehbaz Sharif did not react no matter how harshly you treat him, Maitla quoted the former army chief saying.
According to Shahid Maitla’s article, General Bajwa termed Hamza Shehbaz a duffer, but praised Suleman Shehbaz as a sharp and capable person. He said Shehbaz Sharif was a weak premier, who was unable to run the government, and even ministers did not listen to him. He said the situation could improve only with the return of the elder Mian Sahib (Nawaz Sharif].
According to the article, Bajwa said he was surprised by Imran Khan’s hypocrisy when he met him in a cordial manner at the Aiwan-e-Sadr. Bajwa said when he complained to Imran that he was criticising him publicly and calling him Mir Jafar and Mir Sadiq, Imran outright denied it, saying he was using those words for Nawaz Sharif and Shehbaz Sharif.
Bajwa said, as reported by Maitla, Imran Khan asked him to depose his government and conduct elections immediately. The former army chief reportedly said that he called in President Arif Alvi, who was sitting outside the room at that time, and asked him to make Imran Khan realise the situation, as it was not possible for him to depose the government. Arif Alvi also tried to clear the situation to Khan, but that meeting remained inconclusive.
Maitla writes in his article that he asked Gen Bajwa why he called Imran Khan a playboy. Bajwa reportedly said Imran Khan was continuously telling lies about him and vilifying him in public. In the second meeting, Bajwa said, he told Khan to hold his tongue; otherwise he also had many things to say about him. He warned Imran that he had been a playboy in the past, and there were various videos of him. And if he [Imran] did not stop vilifying him, he would have to face the consequences, warned Bajwa, according to Maitla’s article. That meeting also ended on a bitter note, added the article.