South Asia

Pakistan: Imran Khan Warns of Civil War if Elections Not Called

These comments were met with sharp criticism from Shehbaz Sharif, who asked the PTI chief not to "exceed the limits" defined by the law and constitution.

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New Delhi: Ousted Pakistan prime minister Imran Khan on Wednesday admitted that his government was a “weak one” which was “blackmailed from everywhere” as the power was not with him and “everyone knows where that is”.

The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) chairman was ousted from power in April after losing a no-confidence vote in his leadership, which he alleged was part of a US-led conspiracy targeting him because of his independent foreign policy decisions on Russia, China and Afghanistan. He has been calling for fresh elections.

In an interview to Bol News on Wednesday, Khan said he is waiting for the Supreme Court to decide on his party’s plea to provide protection to protestors from his party, after which he said he would issue the date for the next march demanding general elections.

“We will see if they allow us to go towards elections through legal and constitutional means otherwise this country will go towards (a) civil war,” he warned.

These comments were met with sharp criticism from incumbent Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and other government representatives.

Khan was also asked to recall the events of the night of the no-confidence vote against him, who was issuing orders and who had impeded the cases against the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) leaders.

Khan said his government had been “weak” when it came to power and had to seek coalition partners, adding that if the same situation were to arise again, he would opt for re-elections and seek a majority government or none at all.

“Our hands were tied. We were blackmailed from everywhere. Power wasn’t with us. Everyone knows where the power lies in Pakistan so we had to rely on them,” the 69-year-old cricketer-turned-politician said, without elaborating any further who he was referring to.

Khan, who came to power in 2018, reportedly with the backing of the military, is the only Pakistani prime minister to be ousted in a no-confidence vote in Parliament.

He said it was imperative for the country to have a “strong army” due to the threat posed by the enemies but said there was also the need to strike a “balance” between having a strong army and a strong government.

“We relied on them all the time. They did a lot of good things too but they didn’t do many things that should’ve been done. They have the power because they control institutions such as NAB (National Accountability Bureau), which wasn’t in our control,” he said.

The former prime minister said while his government had the responsibility, it did not have all the power and the authority.

The Pakistan Army, which has ruled the coup-prone country for more than half of its 73 plus years of existence, has hitherto wielded considerable power in the matters of security and foreign policy. However, the army has continuously denied its involvement in politics.

The PTI chief said the current political situation was a problem for the country as well as the establishment. “If the establishment doesn’t make the right decisions then I can assure in writing that (before everyone else) they and the army will be destroyed because of what will become of the country if it goes bankrupt,” he said.

“Pakistan is going towards a default. If that happens then which institution will be (the worst) hit? The army. After it is hit, what concession will be taken from us? Denuclearisation,” Khan said.

Khan said that if Pakistan were to lose its nuclear deterrent capability, it would be fragmented into three pieces. “If the right decisions aren’t made at this time then the country is going towards suicide,” he warned.

Prodded further to share his thoughts on the night of the no-confidence vote, Imran declined to go into details and said: “History never forgives anyone. Things come out. If you ask me, I won’t go into details, but when history will be written then it’ll be counted as such a night in which Pakistan and its institutions were damaged a lot.

“Those same institutions weakened Pakistan which gave it its foundation and strengthened it,” he said.

Khan warned that the country would descend into a civil war if fresh elections were not announced. He said there was “no question” of returning to the National Assembly as that would “mean accepting the conspiracy” that had removed his government.

The PTI chairman has been protesting ever since and calling for fresh elections because, in his words, the incumbent coalition government led by Shehbaz Sharif of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) party was imported and not a true representative of the Pakistani people.

Khan led thousands of PTI supporters to Islamabad last Wednesday in a protest and had planned to stage a sit-in until new elections were announced but abruptly called off the sit-in at the last minute after making it to the capital. However, he had threatened to return after six days if the government failed to give a date for snap polls in the country.

Sharif bites back

Pakistan PM Shehbaz Sharif slammed Khan’s comments, accusing him of crossing limits.

According to Dawn newspaper, in a separate statement shared on the PML-N’s Twitter, Sharif said Khan’s remarks were proof that the PTI chief was “involved in a conspiracy, not politics”. He accused Khan of spreading “chaos” due to his “frustration and sick mentality”.

“This is not a statement but a conspiracy to spark the fire of anarchy and division in the country,” the statement says, according to the newspaper.

“Losing power does not mean that you wage a war against Pakistan, its unity and its institutions,” he said, warning Imran not to “attack” the federation and country’s institutions. “Don’t exceed the limits [defined] by the law and Constitution.”

The prime minister said the nation would not accept such “nefarious” plans at any cost and would not let them succeed. He vowed to defeat such “impure” aims.

(With PTI inputs)