Ousted prime minister Imran Khan has sought to distance himself from the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI)’s narrative of a U.S.-backed “regime change conspiracy,” setting his sights on former Army chief Gen. (retd.) Qamar Javed Bajwa as the primary mover of the “plot” to remove him from the Prime Minister’s Office.
In an interview with Voice of America, broadcast on Sunday, he abandoned months of rhetoric by maintaining the U.S. had not tried to oust him as prime minister. “It was unfortunately, from what evidence has come up, Gen. Bajwa who somehow managed to tell the Americans that I was anti-American. And so, it [plan for ouster] wasn’t imported from there. It was exported from here to there,” he claimed, describing Bajwa as a “super king” who had wielded all the authority during him time in office.
“Gen. Bajwa had become an expert of everything, including economy, politics, and foreign policy,” alleged Khan. “Gen. Bajwa used to get the credit for good decisions and Imran Khan used to serve as a punching bag for every wrong decision,” he claimed, as he blamed the Army chief for the country’s prevailing “political and economic ills.”
Reiterating claims that the former Army chief had differed with him on accountability, the PTI chief alleged that Bajwa had decided that there would be no accountability of Shehbaz Sharif—who was imprisoned from September 2020 till April 2021 on money-laundering charges—as he had decided to elevate the PMLN chief to the Prime Minister’s Office. “No accountability was held thereafter,” he claimed. “If Bajwa could be criticized or [held] accountable for his actions, he would not have been able to damage the country to such an extent,” he added.
Claiming that the new military leadership had realized that the “experiment of regime change has failed,” he said elected governments must be allowed to wield the authority that comes with the responsibility of ruling the nation. “The leading principle of the balance [of power] is that the elected government that has the responsibility, which people have mandated through their vote, must also have the authority,” he said, stressing that no system could function if these were separated. “If the authority lies with the army chief, [but] responsibility lies with the prime minister, no management system works,” he added.
“Military [in Pakistan] means one man, the Army chief. So, the whole policy of military vis-a-vis their dealing with the civilian government depends on the personality of one man,” he said, acknowledging that Bajwa had provided his government with the “organized strength of the Pakistan Army.” This, he claimed, had been most visible in Pakistan’s successful response to COVID-19.
In a subsequent televised address, Khan reiterated his call for fresh elections in Punjab and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa following the dissolution of their provincial assemblies. Claiming only fresh elections could steer Pakistan out of its current economic and political mess, he said the caretaker governments would cease to hold any authority 90 days after the dissolution in mid-January. Following this, he said, bureaucrats and police officers should cease to obey their orders.
Alleging that the incumbent rulers feared elections because they expected him to emerge victorious, he claimed that they would not try to pressure the judiciary to have his disqualified in one of the many cases currently pending against him in various courts. “Statements have already started pouring in against the judiciary after its verdict directing the ECP to hold elections within 90 days,” he stated, perhaps forgetting his own party’s history of abusing senior judges if they issue any ruling against its interests.
On the pending IMF deal, which was inked by his government, Khan reiterated concerns that its conditionalities would lead to further inflation and push millions of people down the poverty line. Accusing the incumbent government of “ruining” the economy, he questioned who was responsible for this crisis.
On the resurgence of terrorism, Khan blamed the “negligence” of Pakistan’s security forces and intelligence agencies and reiterated calls for “positive ties” with Afghanistan. “Whatever government is in Afghanistan, Pakistan must have a good relationship with them,” he said, criticizing Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari for not having visited the neighboring country to see support for tackling the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan. Pakistan is “not in a position to have another war on terror,” he added.