Sunday May 28, 2023

Businessmen assail Imran over COAS meeting criticism

PTI leader Fawad Chaudhry has said, “we know these businessmen well who were involved in the regime change. They only meet to protect the mafia”

March 10, 2023
Prime Minister Imran Khan addressing the nation from Islamabad, on February 28, 2022. — YouTube
Prime Minister Imran Khan addressing the nation from Islamabad, on February 28, 2022. — YouTube

KARACHI: In a meeting with members of the business community, Army Chief Gen Asim Munir assured them they will jointly steer the country out of problems. He told the businessmen the friendly countries were willing to invest in the sectors of information technology, agriculture, mining and real estate.

Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI), however, is not happy over the businessmen meeting with the Army Chief. Calling the business community a mafia, the PTI has added them to the list of people who they blamed toppled party’s government. The party said businessmen painted a gloomy picture of the country before the then Army Chief, Gen Bajwa.

In a tweet on March 7, PTI leader Fawad Chaudhry reacted to the meeting saying, “We know these businessmen well who were involved in the regime change. They only meet to protect the mafia”.

When contacted the businessmen who were not only the participants of the meeting with Army Chief Gen Asim Munir but also held meetings with former Army Chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa, gave their stance with a condition they would not be named. A businessman said, “What can I say over this weird utterance. The regime change allegation has been shifted to the business community from America”.

Another businessman said, “Army Chief’s interference in the economic matters and practice of business community meetings with him was started by Imran Khan himself. Imran Khan called us and assured improvement when the activities of NAB and the economic policies hit business community. For a guarantee, he asked us to meet the Army Chief”.

He further said Imran told them the Army was the only organised institution in the country which was doing well. The businessmen could seek help from the Army Chief and the ISI DG if needed, he said.

After that, he said, the then Army Chief, Gen Bajwa, used to call them to Rawalpindi, and on other times held meetings with them in Lahore and Karachi to give them assurance that they would not be harassed in the Imran Government and the NAB would not take action without any reason. Rather, they would get cooperation in their investment.

Gen Bajwa, he said, told them he had the mandate given by then Prime Minister Imran to meet and give them assurance. He further said no such things were observed when the Army Chief visits Saudi Arabia to seek funds and asking for help from United Arab Emirates, and on other time, getting LNG deal signed with Qatar.

Another businessman when asked to comment on the allegation made by PTI, said the practice of businessmen official meetings with the Army Chief started in 2018. And after that, the ISI DG himself struck deals with the power companies. “I am fully aware of them, as I myself own a power company”, he said.

The business person stated that the DGMI helped conclude the Reko Diq agreement. A cell was set up in the GHQ to get Pakistan out of the FATF. The cell would often consult the business community. Now when the business community has met Gen Asim Munir, it is being dubbed as mafia.

The business personality added that Imran Khan himself set up a national development council in 2019 with the army chief being its members.

When another business person was told that Imran Khan is accusing the business community of being part of the regime change conspiracy as they would often complain to the army chief about the state of economy , he said, “Economy was in bad shape in the PTI government tenure.”

He said the business community had not advised the MQM and PTI allies against supporting the government. Imran Khan had himself been managing politics through the army. And when the army refused to play its role, Imran Khan’s allies dumped him, the business person added.

Branding the business community as a mafia that played a role in the bringing down the PTI government is a new twist to the regime-change narrative. Initially PTI’s narrative started from accusing the US President Biden who told an assistant secretary Donald Lu about it, and Lu informed Pak ambassador Asad Majeed. Asad Majeed communicated the alleged US plan to Imran Khan’s government through a cipher.

The PTI twisted the conspiracy narrative by saying that Asad sent the cipher to Gen Bajwa who took the PDM into confidence and then the PTI government was overturned. Later, to repair relations with the US, Imran Khan changed his narrative, alleging that Gen Bajwa exported the regime-change conspiracy to the US with the help of former ambassador Hussain Haqqani.

In twisting the conspiracy narrative, Imran Khan has also accused Punjab’s Caretaker Chief Minister of playing a central role in dislodging the PTI government.