ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif on Tuesday said he was offered premiership by former army chief General (retd) Qamar Javed Bajwa prior to 2018 general election, but he declined.
In an interview with senior anchorperson Hamid Mir in Geo News show ‘Capital Talk’, Shehbaz said he had a meeting with Gen (retd) Qamar Javed Bajwa in which former ISI chief Gen (retd) Naveed Mukhtar and Gen (retd) Faiz Hameed were also present.
When the anchorperson asked if they wanted to have a deal, the prime minister answered in affirmative, adding that he told them that Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PMLN) Quaid Nawaz Sharif was his elder brother, a fatherly figure and his leader, and “I give my point of view to him. It’s his grandeur that sometimes he accepts and sometimes doesn’t.”
“I told the meeting that if somebody thinks that I would become the prime minister by stabbing my brother, I will sacrifice ten such premierships.”
When Shehbaz was told had he not refused, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf Chairman Imran Khan would not have become the prime minister, the PMLN president agreed to that.
The prime minister spoke at length on multiple national issues, including the one-year performance of his government, the economic situation, elections, Toshakhana record, party matters as well as probe into the murder of anchorperson Arshad Sharif.
The prime minister said staff-level agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) would reach within a few days as the government had accepted even the “toughest” conditions put by the global financial institution.
He said joint efforts were being made by both his economic team and other national institutions to make the process a success.
Shehbaz said that while taking the government they knew that situation in the country was bad.
“I was elected by all coalition partners, my colleagues and I knew that the country was in crisis and was about to bankrupt. But I didn’t know that Imran Khan had backed out of the conditions he had agreed with the IMF.”
The prime minister said that Pakistan’s trust was damaged in the world comity. “That’s why the IMF is making us implement those conditions in letter and spirit. Indeed these conditions have burdened the common man, and this burden will further increase,” he added. PM Shehbaz said realising the common man’s suffering, the government had decided to provide relief through the Benazir Income Support Programme. However, he said, the imported inflation caused by the Ukraine war also hit the country in form of increased fertiliser and oil prices.
Moreover, the floods also affected the national economy, and ex-prime minister Imran Khan’s “shameful” lies about regime change by the United Stated created uncertainty, he added.
The prime minister told the interviewer that friendly countries like China were supporting Pakistan despite the fact that Imran Khan had hurt their brotherly ties.
Recounting the baseless allegations leveled by the PTI leadership against him through local television channels as well the United Kingdom’s Daily Mail, Shehbaz Sharif said the latter apologised and the UK’s National Crime Agency also exonerated him from the charges hurled by that time government.
Asked about the ongoing police attempts to arrest Imran Khan, the prime minister said he had been avoiding the arrest on the excuse of illness or injuries. Despite using foul language against the national institutions, he was given relief every time.
He said during the PTI government, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PMLN) leadership, including himself, Nawaz Sharif, Maryam Nawaz, Hamza Shahbaz, Khawaja Asif and Rana Sanaullah, were implicated in false cases and made subject to inhumane treatment in jails.
As regards the registration of around 80 cases against Imran, the prime minister said it was not done by him rather the cases were registered by the citizens and the law would take its course.
“He is wanted by courts, not me. The arrest warrants were issued by the courts, not me or the administration. Now what will happen if the administration does not abide by the court orders?” he questioned.
To a question about the implementation of the Supreme Court verdict on elections, PM Shehbaz said no political party could escape the polls. Being the PMLN president, he had already asked the party men to submit their applications for the party tickets to contest elections for which he was also interviewing the candidates.
However, it was for the Election Commission of Pakistan to hold the elections, he added.
Substantiating his point on the government’s seriousness for elections, the prime minister said a fresh census was being held to address the reservations of some political parties, particularly in Sindh, and billions of rupees were being spent on the exercise.
Coming to the publicising of the Toshakhana record, he said retaining gifts by paying a specified amount was a legal process. However, Imran Khan got the gift of a precious watch from a brotherly country and sold it out in Dubai whereas he committed a criminal act of getting a fake receipt from a local merchant.
The record of Toshakhana was made public as per the cabinet decision as well as the Lahore High Court’s verdict, he added.
Shehbaz rubbished the notions of any differences within the party and explained that PMLN Chief Organiser Maryam Nawaz had earned the office through her tireless struggle even when Nawaz Sharif was in jail. He said the conventions being addressed by Maryam Nawaz were giving new energy to the party, besides building a narrative.
He was confident to say that the party would get stronger as Nawaz Sharif would return soon following his doctors’ permission.
Regarding the appointment of the new army chief, the prime minister said he had appointed General Asim Munir to the slot for being the most senior officer and having an excellent career.
He said while appointing the army chief, the government banked upon the existing law. He also thanked the coalition parties for backing him in taking the decision.
Asked about any progress in the probe into the murder of Arshad Sharif, he told Hamid Mir that he had talked to the Kenyan president twice - with the last one some three weeks ago - and asked him to provide their investigation report also sought by the Supreme Court. The Kenyan leader agreed and assured him to extend maximum support in that regard.
Calling it a brutal murder, the prime minister said the government was making all-out efforts and would not sit idle until the bereaved family got justice.
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