KARACHI: PTI leader Sayed Zulfikar Abbas Bukhari, better known as Zulfi Bukhari, has said that Gen (r) Faiz Hameed did want to be the chief of army staff, and that a prime minister should not be relying on an individual instead of an office.
Bukhari was speaking to Geo’s Shahzad Iqbal on the show ‘Naya Pakistan’ on Sunday night. Responding to a question by the host on whether Imran Khan’s desire to keep Gen Faiz Hameed as ISI head and then make him COAS ended up harming the PTI, Zulfi Bukhari said: “I will give a blanket statement on this: we or any party should not support an individual; the relationship has to be between the office of the PM and the office of the DGI or the COAS, not between individuals. Every time one has allied with an individual, it has ended to the detriment of the [party/office].”
He elaborated that: “There is no mistake that Gen Faiz wanted to be the chief of army staff so whatever his intelligence would have been, it would have been manipulated [to] the prime minister for his own benefit. This is why there should be no such reliance [on an individual].”
On being asked again whether Gen Faiz did indeed want to become army chief and to that end manipulate Imran Khan, including the reference against current CJ Qazi Faez Isa, Bukhari said: “I am giving a general statement that overall he was DGI so whatever intelligence he had, he employed for his own benefit. Such manipulations happen because of these ambitions”.
Bukhari also said that, while diplomats are free to meet with any and all political leaders, they should also be cognizant and vocal about the persecution of a political party. Shahzad Iqbal had asked him about the US ambassador’s meeting with Nawaz Sharif, Jahangir Tareen and Yusuf Raza Gilani. Bukhari replied: “I am clear on this: a diplomat’s job when they are in a country that is going to the polls is to meet all political leaders. All political leaders should be met, including those in our party that are allowed to meet people without fear of being arrested. The biggest democratic party in Pakistan is being clamped down on. When we hear of someone being arrested, we heave a sigh of relief that at least that person wasn’t disappeared or kidnapped. When a diplomat says they sat with Tareen or Nawaz and want free and fair elections in the country, [then I ask] if you want free and fair elections in the country, why don’t you take up the issue of the dismantling of the largest political party in the country?”
Zulfi Bukhari said that when even banned outfits are being allowed to campaign, it is just the PTI that is being restricted from jalsas or any kind of campaigning, “and when they are allowed, PTI people are arrested”. According to Bukhari, “We feel however that we don’t even need that much campaigning. The PTI’s popularity has been on a high the past 18 months. So we are trying to make sure as few of our leaders and workers get arrested as is possible.”
On whether the PTI can win without campaigning, Bukhari’s stance was that “Despite the persecution of the party, its vote bank has to date not fallen at all. I’m not saying we won’t do anything but there’s still some time till February. We don’t feel we need a three month campaign like the other parties do.”
In fact, per Bukhari, “Even the February elections can be delayed on any pretext given the sort of excuses that have already started especially in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa with the weather being cited as a reason as well as law and order.”
Shahzad Iqbal mentioned that there are surveys that show that the vote bank is Imran Khan’s and not the PTI’s and Imran is in jail so who gets to decide election details? To this, Bukhari categorically said that all “decisions regarding elections will be made by Imran Khan, including deciding election tickets. We had already prepared for this eventuality. Imran Khan being in jail only boosts our campaign. When we go to the voter, [we will be asking for a vote] for a person who is sacrificing himself in jail for the people...”
Talking about PTI leaders that left the party, Bukhari said that “No one is leaving the party voluntarily. Ali Awan’s brother was in jail for two months. He himself had been kidnapped. No one knew where he was. It was expected that he would either do a presser or talk to a TV show about how bad Imran was -- but he had already made a video saying that if I make a statement just know it’s under pressure, so the talk show and press conference were bypassed and a photo comes out of him joining the IPP. This is not a ‘joining’; no one gains from this, not even the IPP other than the shame that people are kidnapped and then hand-delivered to the IPP.”
On being reminded that those who had left the party had been arrested for 2-3 days or a week or ten days, and had not been kidnapped, Bukhari said that he could not comment on them “because God knows what pressures they were under. Show me any one of them, other than Amir Kayani, who had a smile on their face [when leaving the party]. Other than Kayani who is actively working for the IPP, none of the others has been seen much.”
But what about how during the PTI’s tenure when PML-N and PPP leaders and even bureaucrats were arrested and stayed in prison in some instances for more than two years? “I disagree on this because I don’t think they faced such brutality and pressure”, said Bukhari. “I think that especially those who are not in the system -- prison system -- that kind of brutality has not been seen in 70 years.”
The show host also asked Zulfi Bukhari whether the PTI miscalculated by not agreeing to election negotiations with the other parties despite being invited to do so before May 9. Bukhari said that: “This is a big IF -- whether we would have gotten the election or not. I repeat that the reality is that till the PTI vote bank is around, elections are very difficult to imagine. Our popularity increases every day these days. Compared to today, back then our popularity wasn’t even this high.”
Bukhari having mentioned that the PTI was perhaps being given the run-around regarding elections, Shahzad Iqbal asked who exactly was doing that with the PTI. Bukhari replied that former COAS Gen Bajwa had been putting out the message that “if you don’t do this, elections will be held and if you don’t do that elections will be held. But the reality is that there was a trust deficit. We were supposed to listen to the individual who kept telling us that no VONC was happening against us, no conspiracy happening against us, etc. So there was a trust deficit between an ex PM and the army chief. Naturally then you don’t trust what the person is saying.”
Did the PTI’s extreme narrative post-ouster with talk about Mir Jaffars and Mir Sadiqs hurt it eventually as a bad strategy? On this, Bukhari clearly said that the PTI’s “confrontation was not with the establishment but between two individuals -- the army chief and the ex-PM. Their coexistence was impossible at the time. We have no fight with the establishment and the military. In fact if you do a survey within the army, the PTI is most popular.”
The Naya Pakistan host had also asked Zulfi Bukhari about the way Imran Khan did not lower the temperature even after the change in command in the army, and had taken some time to even condemn the May 9 events and that too not very clearly. Bukhari counter-asked: “is protest a bad thing? Does a party not have a right to protest if its leader is arrested that way? We have always condemned rioting. We condemned the May 9 riots too again and again. But if the whole leadership is arrested or kidnapped on the basis of one incident with women also being jailed and fake FIRs being used how is [that justificable]? We are stuck on May 9. We have condemned the incident and said that those who were part of it can be taken to task but not innocent people.”
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