Talks democracy, politics, army and more in interview
Prime Minister Imran Khan said on Thursday had an ISI DG asked him to step down as the premier, he would have immediately demanded his resignation.
“I would immediately demand his resignation,” PM Khan told SAMAA TV’s anchorperson Nadeem Malik, referring to Nawaz Sharif’s statement that former ISI DG Lieutenant General (retired) Zaheer-ul-Islam had asked him to step down as Pakistan’s prime minister during the 2014 sit-in.
“I am a democratically elected prime minister, who could dare tell me that,” the prime minister said.
He said that Nawaz had attempted to remove former military chief General (retired) Pervez Musharraf when he (Musharraf) was visiting Sri Lanka.
“If any army chief had attacked Kargil without asking me, I would have summoned him before me and sacked him,” PM Khan said.
Commenting on his government’s relationship with the army, PM Khan said the country has always had problems when it comes to civil-military relations.
He, however, asked if mistakes were made by an army chief in the past, do they have to call the institution bad forever.
“If Justice Munir made a wrong decision, do we have to call the judiciary wrong forever,” PM Khan asked Malik. He was of the view that all politicians could not be labeled as bad if a few had stolen money and laundered it abroad.
“The point is that the past is just to learn. We learned that the military’s job is not to run the country,” he said. “If democracy is harming the country, it doesn’t mean that it should be replaced with martial law.”
The premier said the country’s military had “evolved” over the years.
“The current civil-military relations are the best in Pakistan’s history,” he said. “The reason is that the Pakistan Army is completely standing behind the democratic government.”
During the interview, PM Khan criticised former premier Nawaz saying that he was never a democrat. Nawaz was first fostered by General Jilani and then General Zia, he added.
PM Khan said the “world-class” Pakistani agencies always found out about Nawaz’s thievery.
“They [the PML-N] controlled the civilian institutions. They attacked the Supreme Court. Their problem was that the army was not in their control,” he said.
Opposition parties were attempting to put pressure on institutions to get an NRO, the prime minister said.
“What’s the difference between me and General Musharraf,” PM Khan asked Malik. “General Musharraf gave them an NRO to save his power. If today, someone asks me whether I want to protect my power or give them an NRO, I would say I am ready to leave power but won’t give them an NRO.
“When you come under pressure from such thieves and make compromises, the country gets destroyed,” he added.
PM Khan told Malik that he won’t resign on the opposition’s demand because he was elected by 17 million people.
“I won elections on five National Assembly seats,” he said. “Why I would resign on the demand of such thieves.”
The opposition has warned that its members could resign from the assemblies in an attempt to remove PM Khan’s government but the premier doesn’t take the warning seriously.
He told Malik that the government would hold elections on their seats, if opposition members resigned from assemblies.
Though PM Khan said the opposition had the right to hold peaceful protests, he warned he would “put each one of them in jail” if they broke the law.
The premier was also questioned about the recent controversy surrounding Lieutenant General (retd) Asim Saleem Bajwa and his family’s assets.
“An allegation was leveled against him and he produced a detailed document with answers,” PM Khan said. “If anyone disputes it, give it to us and we will get it investigated.”
Commenting on his meeting with General (retired) Raheel Sharif during the 2014 sit-in, PM Khan said it was actually Nawaz who gave the former army chief the role of a mediator.
General (retired) Raheel Sharif had asked him to end the sit-in but he had refused to do so, according to PM Khan.
PM Khan also discussed the differences between western and Pakistani cultures during the interview.
“What happens in the West is not progress,” he said. “Modernization and westernization are not the same thing.”
The prime minister said he saw the western society and its family system with his own eyes. Vulgarity directly affects a society’s family system, he believes.
“The biggest power of our country is our family system,” PM Khan said. “In the West, their family system has collapsed. What’s saving them is their social security system.”
PM Khan held the Hollywood culture responsible for the increasing number of rape cases in India. India’s Bollywood copied the Hollywood and it destroyed the family system in India which gave birth to the “rape culture” in the neighbouring country, he said.
“We should promote our Pakistaniyat. We have a different culture,” the premier said. “Our religion shows us a different path.”
PM Khan said his government was planning to introduce “strict laws” against sex offenders. It was considering introducing “chemical castration” as punishment for “repeat offenders,” he said.
“We will take strict action,” PM Khan said, referring to rape cases. “We will give them exemplary punishments.”
Prime Minster Khan accused the previous government of importing $60 billion of goods in a year against exports of $20 billion, only one third of imports.
But the highest imports Pakistan had was in fiscal year 2018 at $55.67 billion while exports were at $24.77 billion. Exports were 44.5% of imports, not 33.3% as claimed by the prime minister in the show.
Many experts also attribute high imports during fiscal year 2017, 2018 and 2019 to infrastructural equipment imports for CPEC projects.