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LAHORE: Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan has taken a step back on the appointment of a new army chief saying that they are closely observing it and the government can do whatever it wants on the matter.

“No army chief goes against the interest of the people,” the former prime minister said while talking to a select group of journalists on Wednesday.

However, he kept his hard stance on PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif saying he (Nawaz) wanted to appoint his own Chief of the Army Staff (COAS) so that his interests were safeguarded.

Talking about the Toshakhana case, Khan accused a leading media house of running a concocted story. “I have evidence of purchasing the watch (a gift he received during his visit to Saudi Arabia) from Toshakhana,” he said, adding he would take the private TV channel and its anchor to courts in London, Dubai and Pakistan.

He told the journalists that they were receiving messages for negotiations, but “we have asked them to give a date for the fresh elections first”.

Stressing the need for the holding of snap polls, he said a fresh election was the only way to take the country out of the prevailing crisis.

COAS’ appointment: Consulting Nawaz breach of Official Secrets Act: IK

He also said that his stance on the United States (reported in foreign media) was misrepresented; “the Americans overthrew my government, but I am willing to maintain good relations with them in the national interests. “I will always give priority to the country’s interest over anything,” he added.

Meanwhile, while addressing participants of the PTI’s ‘Haqeeqi Azadi’ march in Jhelum, Sargodha and Mardan through a video link from the provincial capital, the former premier said he would announce a date for the arrival of long march in Rawalpindi within a few days. “At Rawalpindi, I will announce my plans, which will be peaceful and within the constitutional limits,” he added.

He also castigated a private media and the PML-N for running propaganda against him; “the TV channel and the PML-N have joined hands to discredit me and the Chief Election Commissioner was also involved in the conspiracy to get me banned from national politics”.

He pointed out that a baseless story was concocted against him by a known fraudster and a wanted criminal, Umar Farooq; “we are going to take legal action against them in the United Kingdom, United Arab Emirates and Pakistan over claims being made about the sale of Toshakhana gifts”. “In the court, we will prove that in the guise of freedom of expression, the media house (involved in the propaganda) was using the medium to pursue its interests,” he added.

He averred that they had submitted all their records to the Election Commission of Pakistan, but it would launch something against us. He claimed that similar cases were filed against the PPP which were still pending.

Talking about the government’s plan to amend the army act, he said it was doing this to gain personal benefits. He alleged that the coalition government would make institutional appointments only to gain personal benefits or protect their interest. “Thus, such an amendment will only harm institutions,” he claimed.

He again castigated Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif for consulting his brother for the army chief’s appointment; “a convict could not take important decisions for the country”. He was of the strong view that Pakistan was going through a crucial time and hence all decisions should be taken on merit.

Keeping in view the prevailing economic crisis, he demanded immediate fresh elections; “this was the only way out of the present economic crisis in Pakistan”. He warned that the country was on the verge of default; “since this government has taken over the economy has nosedived”.

Painting a gloomy picture, he said, “If Pakistan defaults, investors will shy away from investing and we will face more devaluation of the rupee, and subsequently it will lead to inflation and unemployment in the country,” he added.

However, he was certain that the coalition government would not announce fresh polls, as both Nawaz Sharif and Asif Ali Zardari feared losing it. The PTI Chairman again made a passionate appeal to Chief Justice of Pakistan Umar Atta Bandial to investigate the killing of Arshad Sharif, the alleged torture on PTI Senator Azam Swati and the Wazirabad FIR relating to the assassination attempt on him. “In this connection, we have filed separate petitions in the Supreme Court and its Registry Office in all the provinces,” he added.

He reminded the CJ that the nation was expecting justice from him; “This is a defining moment for the country and we are requesting you to grant freedom to the country by giving us justice”.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2022

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