Pakistan: General Bajwa advised me to dissolve assemblies, says Khan

Former prime minister says the ruling coalition is using negotiations with opposition to delay elections

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Former prime minister Imran Khan. — AP file
Former prime minister Imran Khan. — AP file

Published: Mon 24 Apr 2023, 2:58 PM

Last updated: Mon 24 Apr 2023, 4:18 PM

Former prime minister accuses then army chief of managing the return of Nawaz deposed premier, who was voted out of office in April last year after a no-confidence motion, said that the Intelligence Bureau (IB) chief told him that Bajwa wanted to bring Shehbaz Sharif into power.

Pakistan’s former prime minister Imran Khan has saidthat he dissolved the provincial assemblies of Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) after country’s former army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa advised him to do so.

During a meeting with General Bajwa where President Arif Alvi was also present, the former army chief suggested that if Khan sought elections, he should first dissolve his governments in the two provinces, the former prime minister said in an interview with a private news channel on Sunday.

The deposed premier, who was voted out of office in April last year after a no-confidence motion, said the Intelligence Bureau (IB) chief told him that Bajwa wanted to bring Shehbaz Sharif into power, Geo News said in a report.

"General Bajwa and the (premier intelligence) agency knew that the current rulers had stolen money from the national kitty and taken it abroad. Despite this, Bajwa was willing to give them a chance to come back as he had planned an extension (for himself)," Khan said.

During the interview, Imran Khan said that the polls can take place in July if Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif dissolves the National Assembly, the lower house of parliament.

"Elections can be held in July if the prime minister dissolves the assembly," Khan said.

He also claimed that caretaker governments in both Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, the provinces where Khan's party was in power before he decided to dissolve their assemblies on January 14 and 18, are illegal after the lapse of their stipulated term.

He demanded that the caretaker government be abolished and a new "neutral" interim setup be installed.

He added that the Supreme Court of Pakistan has set May 14 as the date for Punjab polls and his party won't let the government go beyond that.

"If they think they (the government) will pressurise the Supreme Court, we will not let it happen. They will scandalise the top court to run away from elections," he said.

In response to the PTI's call for elections in the two provinces, the government has insisted on conducting elections to the national and provincial assemblies together in October.

A three-member bench of the Supreme Court had fixed May 14 as the new date for the election to the Punjab Assembly, quashing the Election Commission of Pakistan's (ECP) decision to extend the polls date from April 10 to October 8.

While security has been cited as a major concern for the government to refuse to hold the polls, the lack of funds for carrying out the task has also been communicated as the main reason for their insistence on delay.

The PTI chief shared the suggestion while refusing to back down from his demand for the snap polls. "There may be no money even in October. The situation may worsen. We cannot go beyond May 14."

The former prime minister further said that inflation irked the public, and the government is running away from their reaction by postponing the elections.

"They are scared of elections," he said, censuring the Shehbaz-led administration.

Khan insisted that the ECP is working in connivance with the ruling Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM), an alliance of 13 political parties.

"Maryam Nawaz is receiving protocol. The election commission is with them," he said, directing his criticism towards the electoral body and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) senior vice-president.

Commenting on talks with the ruling alliance in Islamabad, Khan said he had given the mandate of negotiations to his party's vice-chairman Shah Mahmood Qureshi and not to Asad Qaisar, the former speaker of the National Assembly.

"There has been no discussion on negotiations with Shah Mahmood Qureshi so far," he said amid reports that some major political parties had reached out to the PTI.

Earlier this week, CJP Bandial said the apex court could make some room and change the date of elections if all political parties evolve a consensus to hold talks. The court had earlier also stressed on political parties to sit together to resolve the issues.

Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari, meanwhile, expressed his support for the proposal, calling on his allies and all other political parties to come together and try to end the ongoing crises.

PPP senior leader Qamar Zaman Kaira also confirmed that the ruling alliance made a contact with the PTI. Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) chief Sirajul Haq has also been actively trying to build a bridge between the PTI and coalition parties in the government.

Khan, however, claimed that the government would use negotiations to further delay the polls.

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