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Another U-turn by PTI chief: Imran now blames Bajwa, not US, for regime change conspiracy

The “problem” occurred when Gen Bajwa “favoured some of the biggest crooks in this country,” says Imran

By Our Correspondent
February 13, 2023
PTI Chairman Imran Khan. — VOA video screengrab
PTI Chairman Imran Khan. — VOA video screengrab

LAHORE: Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan has once again changed his stance on ‘regime change conspiracy’, saying that former army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa conspired along with incumbent Premier Shehbaz Sharif and, as a result, the “regime change took place” in the country.

Earlier, for a long time, Imran Khan, who was ousted through a no-confidence motion in April last year, claimed that the US-backed regime change because it wanted to have military bases in Pakistan and use the country once again to meet its foreign policy objectives in the region and beyond.

However, in an interview with the US broadcaster, Voice of America, he took one step backward, saying that the former chief of the army staff (COAS) had close ties with PM Shehbaz Sharif and they “conspired”, and as a result the “regime change took place”.

The “problem”, according to Imran Khan, occurred when Gen Bajwa “favoured some of the biggest crooks in this country”.

He claimed that the former army chief wanted his government to turn a blind eye to corruption, the “biggest problem”, and work in tandem with the corrupt leaders, “giving them immunity from their corruption cases”.

Imran Khan said the new military leadership had realised that the “experiment of regime change has failed”.

“I’m sure amongst the new military leadership there is a realisation that this experiment of regime change has gone wrong,” he said.

The PTI chief stressed that the elected governments must have authority as well as responsibility and a country’s “system fails if it is not the case”.

“The leading principle of the balance [of power] is that the elected government that has the responsibility, which people have mandated through their vote, must also have the authority,” Khan added.

Responsibility and authority, he said, could not be separated and hence a system could not work if the “two things are not vested in the same individual”.

“If the authority lies with the army chief, [but] responsibility lies with the prime minister, no management system works.”

While responding to a question regarding his relationship with the military as the premier, the PTI chief said that all the policies of the military in Pakistan depend on one individual.

“Military [in Pakistan] means one man, the army chief. So, the whole policy of military vis-à-vis their dealing with the civilian government depends on the personality of one man.”

The deposed prime minister said the positive side of his relationship with the then-army chief, General Qamar Javed Bajwa, was his government having the “organised strength of Pakistan Army to help us”.

He said the effect of this relationship was seen in the form of Pakistan’s successful response to COVID-19.

According to the ousted premier, Pakistan’s economy has gone into a tailspin and the country is facing the worst political and economic crisis in history.

Sharing his views on his demand for general elections, the PTI chief said that staging “free and fair elections is not possible anymore” as the credibility of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) as an impartial electoral body had been destroyed.

“There was a local government election in Sindh, that all the political parties rejected.”

While talking about Pakistan’s bilateral ties, Imran Khan said that having a good relationship with Afghanistan, regardless of any government in the neighbouring country, “is inevitable for Pakistan”.

“Whatever government is in Afghanistan, Pakistan must have a good relationship with them,” he said, adding that as the prime minister of Pakistan, he tried his best to keep up with the Ashraf Ghani-led government on good terms in order to get Kabul’s help in dealing with terrorism.

It was disturbing that Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari had spent almost all his time out of Pakistan, but had not paid a single visit to Afghanistan, he said in response to a question about the incumbent government’s failure in getting assistance from Afghanistan against rising terrorism in the country.

Pakistan is “not in a position to have another war on terror”, he added. Separately, in a TV address to the nation on Sunday, Imran Khan said Gen (retd) Qamar Javed Bajwa was acting as the ‘super king’ in the tenure of the PTI government.

He said Gen Bajwa had claimed that the US was not happy with him (Imran). The former prime minister said that during the PTI government, he was under criticism whereas it was Gen Bajwa who used to call the shots, and “our say was merely confined to the decisions that the former army chief was unable to take”.

Citing an interview of Gen (retd) Bajwa to a foreign journalist, Imran said the views of the former army chief on the regime change had come as a surprise for him. The day the PTI government was removed, the entire nation came to know who was responsible for the act, added Imran Khan.

He demanded an inquiry into the regime change conspiracy. He also said the terms given by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) would further add to inflation. He said the only solution at the moment was to hold general election in the country in 90 days as any delay would be a crime and the caretaker setup would lose its constitutional worth after 90 days.

Imran Khan also urged the officials and bureaucracy not to obey unconstitutional orders. The former PM said that Gen Bajwa took credit for all achievements and good decisions, but put the blame of failures on the PTI government. He added that it was Gen Bajwa who saved Shehbaz Sharif from accountability as he had special relationship with him. Sometimes, the judge hearing the case used to get absent or Shehbaz used to fall sick to avoid appearing before the court, he recalled.

The PTI chief said it was his resolve not to give any NRO [deal] to the corrupt elements, but it was done to save mafias that looted the national wealth. The only thing that could steer the country out of crises was the rule of law, said Imran adding that the entire nation was looking towards the institution of judiciary for its better future.

The former premier asserted that “all of us had to get ready for struggle for attaining real freedom. Leaving Pakistan and settling abroad is not a solution,” Imran told the youth thinking of leaving the country at this moment. He said the party and the nation must get ready for the ‘Jail Bharo Tehreek’, whose date would soon be announced.