ISLAMABAD: Imran Khan, who was ousted in April, is confident fresh general elections would sweep him back to power. He would like them to be called immediately, warning of social unrest amid a fiscal crisis, but there is a question mark over the timing, according to Aaj News English website.
Rana Mubashir of Aaj News and Ali Khizar of Business Recorder interviewed Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf Chairperson Imran Khan on Friday about the elections and the economy. One question was when he would like elections.
Timing is significant for the PTI chief because the government has to choose a new army chief in barely a month (COAS General Qamar Javed Bajwa’s tenure ends on Nov 29). Whoever will be in power will get to choose the next army chief; either that will be incumbent Shehbaz Sharif or a new prime minister.
“The government that has the people’s mandate should decide the army chief - not those who brought in an illicit government,” he said. “I don’t consider that a mandate. So the current COAS should continue.”
If general elections are called, then a caretaker government would take the reins. But, said Imran Khan, a caretaker government cannot appoint a COAS. This would mean the current army chief would need an extension. Imran Khan said he was not a lawyer, but perhaps there is a provision in the law for this.
“The priority is elections. In the interim you have a caretaker government,” said Imran Khan. “It can’t appoint an army chief. So as soon as you have an election and have an elected government, they pick an army chief.”
Bajwa was appointed in 2016 and his tenure was supposed to last till 2019. Bajwa was granted an extension, and that runs out in 2022.
Imran Khan is convinced that the only way to handle economic instability is by achieving political stability. But that is not possible with the government that took over by ousting him. “This government has no strength. The IMF says it’s weak,” he said. “So when the Establishment decides, this government will go.”
He argued that the Establishment brought corrupt people [read PML-N] to power and now had to decide if it would let them get away scot free. “Is it going to let these criminals get away with their cases? And then, will it let an absconder sitting abroad appoint Pakistan’s army chief.”
But they are waiting for cases to be ended and then is the nation waiting for that man who never kept anyone on merit will choose an army chief? A person who is not qualified. Should a civilised society leave the question of its national security in the hands of a criminal? Is that the wait?
Imran Khan stressed that donor and international lender agencies are worried if we continue doing what we are doing Pakistan will be headed in Sri Lanka’s direction towards a default. “Chaos will break out, there will be social unrest. What will stop this? This government can’t stop it because until you have political stability you can’t have economic stability,” he said.
This once again comes around to his argument that elections should be held. If the government gives a date, then the PTI would resign from the two assemblies in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa that it controls.
Any plan to go back to the assemblies?
Rana Mubashir asked if Imran Khan had any plans for the PTI lawmakers who resigned after the no-confidence motion, to return to the National Assembly (and sit in the Opposition).
“Going back to the NA means that we accept a foreign conspiracy that brought our government down,” Imran Khan replied. “The day we go back, it means we accept this ‘crime minister’ and set-up. So there is no question of going back.”
Rana Mubashir asked why Imran Khan didn’t think it would have been better for the PTI to become a tough Opposition. Had they not left the field open? “An Opposition doesn’t make a difference,” Imran Khan said. “A majority does. They would have had the bills passed by a majority. Aside from that, we would have legitimized them.”
Ali Khizar said that there was an impression in the market that the PTI is placing its goals above the goals of the State. When the no-confidence vote loomed, the PTI-led government froze petrol prices. And a day before an all-important IMF meeting on Pakistan, there was an audio leak. Imran Khan parried the question and said instead that the new government should have cared about the economy which his government steered with great difficulty out of the pandemic. He brought up the KP finance minister’s laments and then reiterated that the only solution was free and fair elections.
Copyright Business Recorder, 2022