Tuesday June 18, 2024

Imran Khan 'flirting' with US after conspiracy accusations: Khawaja Asif

Imran lobbied in US and asked people to speak in their support which is not "very respectable" for a political worker, says minister

By Web Desk
March 24, 2023
Defence Minister Khawaja Asif speaking during a conversation with foreign media persons on March 24, 2023. — YouTube screengrab/PTV News Live
Defence Minister Khawaja Asif speaking during a conversation with foreign media persons on March 24, 2023. — YouTube screengrab/PTV News Live 

Defence Minister Khawaja Asif Friday said that Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan is again "flirting" with the Joe Biden-led administration after accusing it of toppling his government. 

Speaking during a press conference with foreign media persons flanked by Information Minister Marriyum Aurangzeb, Asif said that the former premier was accusing the US of conspiring against him and now is again flirting with the American government through lobbyists and approaching them for some sort of intervention, aid or help.

He said that the PTI has lobbied in the US and asked people to speak in their support which is not "very respectable" for a political worker to seek help from abroad.

At the start of his address, the defence minister said that Khan's political journey started with a cypher and he is now seeking the United States' help. 

"And today Shireen Mazari has written a letter to the United States for help [...] the country which was being accused the conspiracy against Pakistan or conspiracy against Imran Khan's government, the same people are now asking for help and rescue from the perpetrators of a foreign conspiracy."

Asif said that this is the sum of Khan's journey since his dismissal from the government through the vote of no-confidence. He added that the former prime minister was sending "his SOS to the United States".

'Imran offered to talk to establishment, not govt'

Responding to a question, the PML-N leader said that the government has tried developing consensus on economic policies for the last year but that offer was rejected and spurned by the then-prime minister Imran Khan.

"He [Imran Khan] has offered to talk to the establishment, with the military leadership but not the political leadership. Despite the fact that the present government was willing to talk on so many occasions, Imran kept on insisting and went to the extent of trying to approach the present leadership of the Pakistan Army," he added.

Asif said before that, Khan approached former army chief General (retd) Qamar Javed Bajwa through the president, tried negotiating with him and offered him an extension for life.

"He has not offered the present government a dialogue or negotiations. However, we are ready to talk for the sake of peace in our country to have a consensus on some major issues," he added.

"We’re not in favour of a transitional dialogue but a comprehensive one that covers everything," he highlighted.

'Imran Khan is a desperate man'

Speaking about the recent clashes between the PTI supporters and the police, Asif said that there is a possibility they might escalate and get into an ugly situation.

"Imran Khan is a desperate man, he has demonstrated violence in the last few weeks and this has never happened in Pakistan," he said, reiterating that the political governments have never resorted to "organised" violence.

The minister said that the government still has the ability to control the violence triggered by Imran Khan and his supporters.

Talking about the former premier's appearances before the court, Asif said that nowhere in the world has ever an accused refused to appear in court.

"And his appearance in the court is accepted while sitting in the car and he actually attacks the courts or the courts are mobbed by his supporters.

"Whenever he appears, the courts are intimidated, they come under pressure, face threats. And when police are sent to his home to arrest him, the police are attacked with Molotov cocktails and firing," he continued.

“This has never happened in Pakistan before. Even during Imran’s regime, and in the past too, opposition leaders were arrested and they surrendered in a dignified manner," he said, adding that they never physically contested their arrest, never abused or maligned the courts whatever victimisation took place.

Recalling the time when Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) leaders were arrested, Asif said that there was never this kind of resistance when they were detained.

“I was picked up from Embassy road and remained in jail for almost six months. It has been almost three years but my wife and son still appear in court. The victimisation of the opposition [during Imran’s government] was unprecedented.”

However, he said that the coalition government never resorted to political victimisation during its tenure. He further said that the incumbent government is governing the country under circumstances that are difficult administratively, financially and politically.

Asif said that they had the option to dissolve the assembly after the vote of no-confidence and call for new elections but we were in the middle of negotiating with the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

"An interim government perhaps could not do that as effectively as an empowered and elected government in power could,” he said, adding that the government is handling the crises precipitated by Imran.

'Cult following'

Speaking about the allegations levelled by Khan against the inspector-general of Punjab (IGP) and the chief minister for conspiring to murder him, Asif said that the whole thing is scandalous and he is trying to create an atmosphere where his followers are ready to believe anything he says and it's like a cult.

"[...] That sort of cult following is here in Pakistan but this will fizzle out and the allegations of conspiring to murder him [Imran Khan] is stretching a bit too far," he added.

He said that on one hand, he was accusing Gen (retd) Bajwa of aiding his opponents and on the other hand he was offering him an extension.

'Deteriorating security situation'

Shedding a light on the provincial elections, Asif said that they will be held on time in October.

He said that the security situation has deteriorated in the last couple of months and terror incidents have escalated.

"The Ministry of Finance said that we are going through a tough time so we will not be able to provide funds for the elections [...] and it takes about a month for the deployment of the forces."