Pakistan’s ex-PM Sharif accuses army of political interference

Pakistan’s ailing former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Thursday accused the country’s powerful military of political interference, saying in a televised speech from exile in London that the military had rigged the 2018 vote that brought the country’s current prime minister Imran Khan to power.

An AP report by Munir Ahmed said:

The 70-year-old Sharif has had a long uneasy relationship with the military, with Thursday’s tirade the latest confrontation.

“I will never reconcile with those who violate the constitution by indulging in politics,” Sharif said, listing off ways he said the 2018 was rigged to bring Prime Minister Imran Khan to power. He said interfering in politics in uniform amounts to treason under the country’s constitution.

The October 1, 2020 report from Islamabad said:

Sharif’s allegations sparked an angry response from Imran Khan, who in his own televised remarks Thursday said Sharif was “playing a very dangerous game” by humiliating the military and intelligence services.

Imran Khan dismissed the allegations of rigged elections as baseless.

Sharif served as Pakistan’s prime minister three times, first removed by a president in 1993, then by military ruler Pervez Musharraf in 1999. A court in 2017 ousted him from power over corruption allegations. Khan, a former cricketer, came to power in 2018.

The report said:

Sharif spoke from London, where he has been since last November when he was released on bail to seek medical treatment abroad. At the time, a court permitted Sharif to leave the country for four weeks, but he did not return. A court last month issued arrest warrants for Sharif, previously sentenced to seven years in prison on corruption and money laundering charges stemming from disclosures in the Panama Papers.

Sharif’s remarks came days after Pakistan’s opposition vowed to hold rallies in October to pressure Khan to resign.

Sharif was targeted by similar mass protests during his rule by Khan, who Thursday night refused to resign. Khan said he will not withdraw the corruption cases against Sharif.

Khan said his government will bring Sharif back from London through a court order.

“I am told someone else is running parliament”

A said on October 1, 2020:

Nawaz Sharif on Wednesday said that he has been informed that “someone else” was running the parliament, in lieu of its members.

“People tell me that someone else is running the parliament. Other people come and give directions about the day’s agenda and voting on bills etc,” he said while virtually addressing a meeting of the party’s Central Executive Committee.

Nawaz was echoing a sentiment expressed earlier by his daughter and PML-N Vice President Maryam Nawaz, who had said that political decisions should be made in the parliament, not at the General Headquarters.

Maryam was responding to a question from a reporter about Army Chief General Qamar Bajwa and head of the ISI Lt Gen Faiz Hameed’s meeting with key opposition figures.

Commenting on the country’s current political situation during today’s meeting, Nawaz said: “We have broken free of the colonisers only to be enslaved by our own. Today, we are not free citizens.”

In another video shared by Maryam, the former premier said that a colonel could be seen hiding his face during the hearing of a case against him by the National Accountability Bureau.

“What was the reason behind hiding his face? You were being insincere that’s why you hid your face,” he said.

Nawaz, in a separate statement released by the party, also said he was saddened by the arrest of his brother and Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly Shehbaz Sharif.

“However, our spirits will not be dampened by what is happening,” he said, adding that the party would double its efforts. “We are proud that our party workers are facing the current situation with courage. There is no example in history of the treatment meted out to our children,” he said.

He added that Shehbaz has shown unparalleled strength and courage during these times and paid tribute to his brother for serving the nation with honesty. “He worked day and night to set up power plants in Punjab.”

The PML-N meeting was called to discuss the situation arising out of Shehbaz’s arrest and to formulate a future strategy in light of the current political situation, PML-N spokeswoman Marriyum Aurangzeb said on Twitter earlier today.

‘Decisions in favor of the public’

Another report by The Dawn said:

Speaking to the media after the meeting, PML-N Vice President Shahid Khaqan Abbasi said that Nawaz had stressed that the opposition alliance should take decisions that would be in favor of the public.

He criticized the government and said: “The speaker and the government runs the parliament. You have seen the way they run it. In two years, the problems of the people have not even been discussed once.”

Relations between the PTI-led government and opposition have become more tense in recent days after the latter held a conference where they announced a wide-ranging anti-government movement and criticised what they termed as the military’s interference in politics.

Following the conference on September 21, in which Nawaz had bitterly criticised the Army’s ‘interference in political matters’, a number of revelations came to the fore regarding civil-military meetings.

Most notably, it was disclosed that Army Chief Gen Qamar Bajwa and head of the Inter-Services Int­elligence Lt Gen Faiz Hameed had held a meeting with key opposition figures days before their multiparty conference and cou­n­selled them to refrain from dragging the military into political issues.

Prime Minister Imran reportedly said he was aware of the meetings, and accused the opposition of wanting to create a rift between the government and the armed forces.

India helping Nawaz in “attempts to weaken army”, says Imran

Another report said on October 2, 2020:

Pakistan PM Imran Khan has said PML-N supremo Nawaz Sharif is playing a “dangerous game” by levelling allegations of political interference against the army and claimed that the former premier has India’s support.

In an interview with journalist Nadeem Malik on Samaa TV on Thursday, he also said the relations between his government and the military are the “best in history” because all institutions are working in their spheres.

“This is a dangerous game Nawaz is playing; Altaf Hussain played the same game,” he said, adding that he was “100 per cent” sure that India was helping the PML-N leader.

“Whose interest is it that our army weakens? Our enemies,” he added, saying some “foolish liberals” were agreeing with Nawaz’s narrative.

“Look at Libya, Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen; the entire Muslim world is ablaze [so] why are we safe? If it weren’t for our army, our country would’ve been in three pieces. India’s think-tanks say that they want to break Pakistan.”

He said Nawaz was creating a “huge fitna (mischief)” by attacking the army.

“He (Nawaz) is becoming the next Altaf Hussain. He is a coward, I am sure he has support [from India],” he said.

Imran said he was the “first person in the country’s history” who won elections from five constituencies and who was “not grown in any military nursery like Nawaz or Zulfikar Ali Bhutto”.

He reiterated that he did not have any issues with the army and came to power after mobilising the public and struggling on his own.

“Justice [Asif Saeed] Khosa during the Panama Papers case had said that all institutions in Pakistan were rotten and paralysed,” he said. “Only one institution is intact which is the army and we take their assistance to fight Covid, locusts, etc. If I hadn’t sent the NDMA to clean nullahs [in Karachi], more water would have entered [buildings].”

‘Army has evolved’

Imran said the army could not be cursed due to the mistakes made by some dictators.

“If a dictator made mistakes will we always call the army bad? If Justice Munir gave a wrong decision will we call the judiciary bad? If politicians looted wealth and stashed it abroad are all politicians bad?” the premier asked.

He said Pakistan’s history provided the lesson that the “military’s job is not to run the government. If a democratically elected government is performing poorly, it does not mean martial law should be imposed; it means the government should be improved.

“If a judge gives a wrong decision it means the judiciary has to evolve. The army has evolved as well. Contemporary civil-military relations are the best in history because they are all working in their spheres.”

He said the army had stood by his decisions including those regarding relations with India, opening of the Kartarpur Corridor and the coronavirus pandemic.

The premier said PML-N supremo Nawaz Sharif was “never a democratic man” and entered politics through the army’s support.

“Now he has become a super democrat,” he added, saying Nawaz had problems with various former army chiefs and Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa, whom he himself appointed.

The prime minister said Nawaz has problems with the army because “they come to steal and our world-class agencies detect their theft.”

He said Nawaz during his tenure had controlled the civil institutions and even the judiciary and had his workers attack the Supreme Court “when justice Sajjad Ali Shah could not be controlled.”

“Only the army was not under his control. That is why he couldn’t get along [with them].”

Referring to the claim reportedly made by Nawaz that ex-ISI chief Zaheerul Islam had called him to ask him to resign, Imran said: “You were the prime minister, [how] does he have the courage to say that to you?

“If someone tells that to me, I will demand his resignation. I am the democratically elected prime minister; who can dare to tell me to step down?”

Imran said in a democratic system, a person’s moral authority is what counts.

“[Nawaz] has no moral authority. When he had a two-thirds majority, he tried to become Ameerul Momineen … Why don’t I want to become the same?”

He said in security matters the army has the biggest say in any country in the world.

“India has become a security issue,” he added. “We know India sponsors terrorism in Pakistan but since we were aiming to bring peace because we wanted to lift our economy, the army stood by me.”

‘Gen Bajwa asked me about meeting opposition’

Answering a question regarding a meeting held between prominent opposition leaders and the army chief, PM Imran said General Bajwa had called the meeting regarding Gilgit-Baltistan after asking him.

“There was a purpose behind [the meeting],” he said. “India is active in GB; it is also part of the CPEC route and … the region is in limbo. The people there want rights and India is exploiting that.

“It was important that the [army] explained to them what security issues are coming up. Whenever there is a security matter, I prefer the army to explain because they have institutional memory.”

The premier said India wanted to create disturbance in the country by creating a Shia-Sunni conflict.

“We knew for three months, they were aiming for the assassination of Shia and Sunni scholars. Thank God our agencies caught that [and] a terrorist group was busted in Punjab,” he revealed.

‘Will put them all in jail’

Responding to a question, the Pakistan prime minister said he was not threatened by the opposition’s recent announcement to launch a street movement against him. He added that no one could know about street movements better than him.

“To make the public come out, you need to pick something that interests the masses. They (opposition) can never lure masses out,” he said, adding that Nawaz was targeting institutions by sitting abroad so he could get an NRO-like deal.

“I am under no pressure. If someone today asks me to give them an NRO to save my premiership, I will step down.”

He said the opposition has the right to peaceful protest. “They can do that as much as they want but if they step outside the law, I will put them all in jails.”

‘Umpire’s finger’

Asked about his comment regarding ‘umpire’s finger’ during the PTI sit-in against the PML-N government, the premier said he “never meant the army” when he used the term.

“In my eyes, the only umpire is Allah. I went to jail in [Pervez] Musharraf’s time, why would I want the army to take over [during PML-N’s term]?” he said.

Regarding his visit to the General Headquarters in 2014, Imran said the PML-N government had “asked [then-army chief Gen] Raheel Sharif to talk to us. They asked us to end the sit-in; we said no, everyone knows that.”

He said it “would be great” if the opposition decides to resign from the assemblies.

“If we give in to them, our coming generations will never forgive us,” he maintained.

‘Allegation against Asim Bajwa will be pursued if questions raised’

Imran was asked to comment on a recent controversy generated by a news report regarding the offshore business assets of his aide Lt Gen Asim Saleem Bajwa’s family.

In response, he said Bajwa had “produced a detailed document with all the answers” to the serious allegation hurled against him.

“It’s a public document; if someone raises any questions over it I will investigate it,” the premier added.

“After he (Bajwa) submitted his response, we sat with the law minister and studied his response. If someone has objections to that response I will pursue the matter.”

Prime Minister Imran said his government had nothing to do with the abduction of journalist Matiullah Jan from Islamabad.

“No one in my government can be involved in it. How was he harming me? How would we benefit from that?”

New rape law

Imran said his government would introduce a new law regarding punishments for rape, suggesting it would involve death sentences as well as chemical castration.

“This (castration) is done in many countries for repeat offenders,” he added, noting that child rape cases are often not reported because parents fear ostracisation.

Political decisions should be taken in parliament, not in GHQ, says PML-N leader

Another report said on September 23, 2020:

PML-N Vice President Maryam Nawaz on Wednesday said that political decisions should be made in the parliament, not at the General Headquarters (GHQ).

Maryam, who was at the Islamabad High Court for a hearing of an appeal against her conviction in the Avenfield property reference, was responding to a question from a reporter about Army Chief Gen Qamar Bajwa and head of the ISI Lt Gen Faiz Hameed’s meeting with key opposition figures.

“I don’t know about a dinner, maybe it was not a dinner [but] I heard about the meeting. From what I understand it was called to discuss Gilgit-Baltistan, which is a political issue, an issue of the people’s representatives, for them to solve and deliberate upon.

“These decisions should be made in parliament, not in GHQ,” she said.

When asked whether former prime minister and PML-N supremo Nawaz Sharif was aware of the meeting, she said: “I don’t know whether he was aware of [the meeting] or if he learnt of it later.

“But the political leadership should not be called nor should it go to discuss such issues. Whoever wishes to discuss these issues should come to the parliament.”

Earlier in the week, it emerged that the army chief and the head of the ISI had held a meeting with key opposition figures before their multiparty conference and cou­n­selled them to refrain from dragging the military into political issues.

The September 16 meeting was attended by about 15 opposition figures including Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly Sheh­baz Sharif, PPP Chairman Bil­a­wal Bhutto-Zardari, Jamaat-i-Islami emir Sirajul Haq, ANP’s Amir Haider Hoti, JUI-F’s Asad Mahmood, PML-N leaders Khawaja Asif and Ahsan Iqbal, PPP’s Senator Sherry Rehman and a few government ministers.

Railways Minister Sheikh Rashid, while confirming the meeting and its participants in a conversation with Dawn, had said the meeting was held to discuss the impending changes in the constitutional status of Gilgit-Baltistan.

However, the opposition had used this opportunity to flag its concerns about other matters, especially the military’s alleged interference in politics and allegations of persecution of its leaders on the pretext of accountability.

The timing of the meeting and its disclosure was linked by the onlookers to the opposition’s multiparty conference held on Sep 20 in which Nawaz had bitterly criticised the Army, saying there was “a state above the state in the country”.

Gen Bajwa had reportedly categorically conveyed that no one would be allowed to create chaos in the country.

‘Not one but two meetings’

Hours after Maryam reportedly said that none of Nawaz’s representatives had attended the meeting at GHQ, Railways Minister Rashid issued a video message on Twitter, saying that he can “present proof” that both Shehbaz and Bilawal had attended the meeting.

He further said “not one but two meetings have taken place” between the establishment and politicians.

“I want to tell the entire nation that this meeting was held [to discuss] Gilgit Baltistan’s elections and granting it the status of a province provisionally,” Rashid stated. “But during [the meeting] all political matters were discussed in three and a half hours. And the meeting held earlier lasted five and a half hours. The previous meeting was a dinner and the recent was a high-tea.”

“If, according to Maryam Nawaz, Nawaz Sharif is unaware of that, I am not responsible,” Rashid added.