Relations with establishment strained on accountability issue: Imran Khan

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LAHORE:Imran Khan said his relations with the military establishment became strained on the issue of “accountability”, adding that the premier should be empowered if the country was to run smoothly.

“I had no issue with the army. Problems only cropped up on accountability matters. However, the army can play a positive role. I believe if the country is to run smoothly, then the prime minister should also be given power along with the management,” Mr Khan said.

In an interaction with journalists at his Zaman Park residence on Tuesday, the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) chairman offered a fresh take on the issue of appointing a new chief of army staff.

When asked whether he had demanded that the appointment of a new chief be made in consultation with him and/or his party, Mr Khan said: “No… they can appoint whoever they want.”

Earlier, in several public meetings and remarks made over the course of the past several months, Mr Khan had declared that “the Sharifs and the Zardaris” were unfit to make the appointment to the top military slot on the basis that “thieves cannot be allowed to appoint the next army chief”.

But when a journalist asked Mr Khan on Tuesday whether incumbent army chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa was being given an extension, the former premier responded with: “This is a billion-dollar question.”

He was of the opinion that a coalition government had to make many compromises. “The prime minister can be blackmailed in a coalition... a two-third majority gives strength to the premier,” he maintained.

After repeatedly calling for a consultative process before picking the new army chief, ousted prime minister Imran Khan now does not see any problem if the appointment is made by the Shehbaz Sharif government.

A senior PTI leader also confirmed the impression that relations between Mr Khan and the military leadership soured during the PTI government when the latter advised the PM to shift focus from accountability of opposition leaders to fixing the economy. “Not budging from his stance, Imran Khan invited trouble,” he said.

Mr Khan was not happy over the FIR registered over the attempt on his life, as it did not name any of suspects he had nominated.

“On the issue of the farcical FIR, my lawyers will give my position,” Mr Khan said in a tweet.

He told journalists he would challenge the FIR in the court to get the three persons – Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif, Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah and ISI Counter Intelligence Wing head Maj-Gen Faisal Naseer – nominated in the case. But, if an investigation proves their innocence, he said, their names should be struck off the FIR. He also claimed that the statement given by the shooting suspect, Naveed Ahmad, was a lie, adding that he had asked the Punjab government to ‘protect’ Ahmad while he is in police custody.”

Separately, in an interview with TRT World, Imran Khan called on the chief justice of Pakistan to be “more assertive” when it comes to dispensing justice.

“Justice persists when every person, even the most powerful, is brought under the rule of law. I, as the head of a province, can’t get the three people to be investigated, imagine what the situation will be for the common man,” he said, adding that PTI’s movement for “real struggle” demanded rule of law.”

He also said that he would receive the forensic report of the Wazirabad attack on Tuesday night, which would prove that “there was more than one shooter”.

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