Pakistan Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif has accused his predecessor Imran Khan of planning to trigger a civil war in the country and warned of legal action for concocting a narrative against the country's national institutions.
His remarks came on the heels of Pakistan's powerful army warning its critics to avoid throwing dirt on the premier institution as it took "strong exception" to "intensified and deliberate attempts" to drag it into politics after the removal of the Khan-led government last month.
The 69-year-old cricketer-turned-politician was voted out of power last month through a no-confidence motion, which he alleges was masterminded by the US with the help of local players over his pursuance of an independent foreign policy. His supporters used social media to target the army for doing nothing to save his government.
Shehbaz’s office issued a statement late on Sunday night, saying that the premier termed Khan's address at a rally in Abbottabad "a grand conspiracy against Pakistan."
"What Imran Khan said yesterday was horrible. He is poisoning the minds of the country's masses. The country will be further divided and this language must be stopped according to the Constitution and law," Shehbaz said while addressing the National Assembly.
Khan had told his audience that Siraj ud-Daula was the governor of Bengal appointed by the Mughal emperor and his commander-in-chief, Mir Jaffar, joined hands with the English to topple Daula’s government.
In the same vein, the former premier alleged his government was toppled by "the Mir Jafars and Mir Sadiqs of today".
He didn’t talk about the role of Mir Sadiq but it is said that he was a general of Tippu Sultan who colluded with the East India Company to defeat Tippu, the daring ruler of Mysore.
Shehbaz said Khan's comments were "very dangerous and terrifying" as he directly likened Pakistan's institutions to Mir Jafar and Mir Sadiq.
"The poison he spewed about the institution yesterday is a conspiracy against it and Pakistan. If this is not stopped through the law and the Constitution then God forbid this country will become a hideous reflection of Syria and Libya where cities present scenes of graveyards today," he said.
Shehbaz also criticised the powerful military for allegedly supporting Imran Khan who was the "blue-eyed" of the institution (army) and "was fed milk like a child".
"Without fear I want to say that in 75 years, this institution has never supported any government or prime minister like it did Imran Khan,” he said, adding that had the army provided 20 per cent to 30 per cent of that support to the past government of the Pakistan People Party (PPP) or Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), the fate of the country would have been different.
He said that the former prime minister Khan was taking the country in a direction where democracy could be eliminated. He also rubbished the “conspiracy theory” to dislodge Khan’s government.
Prime Minister Shehbaz further said that those concocting a narrative against national institutions were the real ‘Mir Jaffar and Mir Sadiq’ - the two men who are known as collaborators of the East India Company in the 18th Century.
Shehbaz said the state of Pakistan, the Constitution of Pakistan, and the respected institutions of Pakistan were challenged by Imran Khan in Abbottabad on Sunday.
He assured that “legal action would be taken.”
Shehbaz said what Khan was doing could only be categorised as conspiracy, not politics.
This conspiracy was not against any political rivals but against the country, he said.
"Pakistan cannot be surrendered and compromised over one person's ego, arrogance, and blatant lies. Imran first conspired to destroy the economy of the country and was now planning to trigger a civil war in Pakistan", he said.
The Prime Minister pledged that Khan's nefarious designs would be crushed at all costs.
“Imran was this era's Mir Jaffar and Mir Sadiq who wanted Pakistan to face the same fate as Libya and Iraq,” he added.
He went on to say that Khan was digging holes in the very boat he is riding and biting the hand that feeds him.
"The people of Pakistan, the Constitution, and the institutions of Pakistan were not slaves of Imran Niazi, nor could he hold them hostage," he lambasted.
He slammed Khan’s speech and said he would not be allowed to become the Hitler of Pakistan.
“Imran had lied to the nation all this time, it's time he faced the truth,” he said.
The state institutions like the judiciary and the military have been severely criticised since the Imran Khan-led government was ousted from power through a no-confidence motion.
Since then, Khan held several public rallies in different cities, labelling the new government as “traitors and corrupt rulers” allegedly imposed at the behest of the US.
Since his ouster, he has blamed the US for conspiring against his government – a stance that the incumbent government has refuted.
Addressing the Abbottabad rally, Imran claimed that more than three million people will march on Islamabad when he will give the protest call to the nation after May 20.
The deposed premier said only animals were neutral who didn't take a side when he was ousted from power in a no-trust move last month, in remarks apparently aimed at the military leadership.
An Army spokesman said at a press conference last month that the military had decided to stay away from politics, especially the current political tussle between former premier Khan and his opponents.(With PTI inputs)