- Imran Khan started taking support from Rawalpindi in 2013, says Asif.
- Bajwa did not help PML-N in elections, defence minister clarifies.
- “People [political leaders] who are arrested these days cry a lot.”
A day after President Dr Arif Alvi went solo and fixed April 9 as the date for elections in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP), Defence Minister Khawaja Asif on Tuesday said doctors have allowed Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) supremo Nawaz Sharif to travel to Pakistan.
Speaking on Geo News programme Capital Talk, the federal minister said that Pakistan’s politics needs the PML-N supremo — the three-time prime minister who has been in self-imposed exile in London since November 2019.
He also suggested that the PML-N and Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari-led Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) should contest the upcoming elections together on the platform of the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM), a coalition of nine political parties.
According to the PML-N stalwart, if the coalition government had held the general elections soon after toppling the Imran Khan-led Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) regime via a vote of no-confidence — in April last year — it would have been “politically beneficial” for the ruling alliance.
Responding to a question, the defence minister said that the ousted premier does not have any political ideology or narrative. “Imran Khan had tendered his resignation along with us during a campaign for the restoration of judiciary,” Asif recalled. At the same time, he said that the difference between them and the PTI chief is natural due to a “difference of opinion”.
Since the 2013 general elections, Khan has started taking support from Rawalpindi, Asif said, in an apparent reference to the establishment.
To another query, the federal minister accused former chief of army staff (COAS) General (retd) Qamar Javed Bajwa of “managing” elections in 2018.
Turning down Khan’s allegations, Asif said that the ex-army chief did not help the PML-N in the elections.
Responding to a question about the recent allegations of misuse of Shaukat Khanum Hospital’s funds, the minister said the hospital should not be targeted in political statements.
Taking a jibe at Imran Khan’s close aide Sheikh Rashid, Asif said: “People who are arrested these days cry a lot.”
Rashid, the chief of Awami Muslim League (AML), was arrested by the Islamabad police on February 2 in a case pertaining to claims he made on TV that PPP co-chairman and former president Asif Ali Zardari was involved in a fresh assassination plot against Imran Khan.
Later, the Islamabad High Court (IHC) approved the former interior minister’s bail plea against the submission of a surety bond of Rs50,000.
Slamming the deposed prime minister, Asif further said that the incumbent rulers should have published the agreement signed between the previous PTI government and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) — as the PDM government is taking tough decisions, increasing taxes and tariffs on the utility services, to meet the conditions of the global lenders for seeking $1.1 billion tranche.
A day earlier, the National Assembly unanimously approved the government’s much-needed Finance (Supplementary) Bill 2023 or ‘mini-budget’ — a move mandatory for seeking the tranche of the IMF loan.
“Imran Khan’s popularity graph dropped during the past three days,” the defence minister added.
“The past government violated the IMF condition,” he said, adding that they were not expecting that the PTI government had laid as many “economic landmines” [for the incumbent coalition regime].
Even friendly countries are unable to help Pakistan due to the pressure of the IMF, Asif also said.
Amid rising political temperature in the country, Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah last month also said that Nawaz Sharif would return to Pakistan with “honour” after dealing with legal issues.
During an interaction with journalists in London, the federal minister also expressed hope that Nawaz would land in the country soon and would chair the party’s parliamentary board to finalise candidates for the next general elections.