Pakistan's defence minister Khawaja Asif on Friday lashed out at former premier Imran Khan's “hypocrisy” for seeking help from the United States after accusing Washington of toppling his government last year.
Addressing a press conference, Asif said that the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) chief's aide sent a letter to the US, seeking its help, after Khan named a top US diplomat of plotting to oust him from power last year. This shows the "total sum of Imran’s journey,” Asif said.
“His political journey started with a cypher - in which he had accused the US of conspiring against the PTI government," Asif said. “And today, Shireen Mazari (former human rights minister) has written a letter to the US for him…the country he once accused of conspiracy … he is now seeking help from them,” the minister said.
Khan, 70, has previously demanded the sacking of US Assistant Secretary of State for Central and South Asia Donald Lu for “sheer arrogance and bad manners”.
Lu is the central figure in Khan’s claims about a US-backed regime change plot that toppled his government through a no-confidence motion in April last year. The PTI chairman accuses Lu of threatening Pakistan’s former ambassador to the US, Asad Majeed, that a failure to remove Imran through a no-confidence vote would herald “consequences” for Pakistan and vice versa.
The US has repeatedly rejected Khan's allegations.
Asif also criticised Khan for creating a cult of violence and vowed to counter his followers with full force if they challenge the writ of the state.
“Any sort of violence Khan or his cult followers will be countered by the power and writ of the government,” he said.
Talking about Khan not attending the hearing of the Toshakhana case on March 18, even after coming to the gate of the Federal Judicial Complex, Asif said, “And when he appears before the court, his attendance is marked while he is sitting in his car, his supporters mob the courts and intimidate them, and the courts come under pressure.”
The minister added that Khan's supporters attacked police officials with slings, petrol bombs, stones and sticks when security forces were sent to arrest him at his Lahore residence. Asif said that such incidents never took place earlier, as political leaders courted arrests without such violence.
The minister, talking about elections, said that the government had the option of dissolving the assemblies and announcing elections, but as the cash-strapped country was negotiating for a loan with the International Monetary Fund, that step was not taken.
“An interim government perhaps could not do that (negotiate with IMF) as effectively as an empowered and elected government in power could,” he said.
Responding to a query about Khan’s desire to hold talks with the government, Asif said that the ousted premier offered to hold talks with the military establishment multiple times and even tried to meet former Army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa through President Arif Alvi, but he had not shown any desire to hold talks with political leaders.
“He has offered to talk to the military leadership several times but not the political leadership. Despite the fact that the present government was willing to talk on so many occasions, Imran kept on insisting and went to the extent of trying to approach the present leadership of the Pakistan Army,” the minister said.
Asif's media interaction comes as the political temperature has risen in the country after the Election Commission of Pakistan on Wednesday delayed the assembly polls in the Punjab province from the originally scheduled date of April 30 and instead gave a new date of October 8 for the provincial elections.
The PTI has decided to oppose the move of delaying provincial elections in Punjab and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa after the assemblies in the two provinces were dissolved in January this year.