Former prime minister and PTI Chairman Imran Khan has defended his ‘controversial’ remarks about the top military brass, saying “under any circumstances, thieves cannot be allowed to appoint the next army chief”.
“New army chief should be appointed on merit. Thieves – Nawaz Sharif and Asif Ali Zardari – cannot be allowed to pick the new army chief,” Imran said while addressing a public gathering in Peshawar on Tuesday.
Imran said a “cabal of crooks” is running propaganda against him to pit his party against the army.
“Every well-wisher of any institution will speak about merit because institutions can only progress when they are strengthened.”
Imran, while referring to Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) supremo and three-time prime minister Nawaz Sharif, asked the charged crowd, “Should a ‘thieve absconder and convict’ be allowed to appoint Pakistan’s army chief?”
Earlier, premising a fitting response to the “deliberate distorting” of his words to “malign” him, Imran hinted at a possible rebuttal to the onslaught he has faced for his statements against the army chief’s selection process.
Am following intense propaganda launched by PDM cabal of crooks against me.This stems from their being petrified of PTI's soaring popularity. Today in Peshawar jalsa I will give proper reply to all those who have deliberately been distorting my words to malign me.Enough is enough
— Imran Khan (@ImranKhanPTI) September 6, 2022
Addressing a public rally at the Iqbal Stadium in Faisalabad on Sunday, the former prime minister had alleged that Nawaz Sharif and Asif Zardari wanted to appoint the army chief of their choice because if a “strong and patriotic army chief” came, they would be questioned about their "loot".
The comments soon descended into a national controversy with condemnations flying in from all sides.
Read Legal fallout of Imran's controversial remarks on COAS selection
Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and other ruling coalition leaders had on Monday condemned Imran Khan’s ‘poisonous’ allegations.
Even President Dr Arif Alvi had distanced himself from the deposed premier's remarks concerning the army chief and said that he should “clarify the comments himself”.
Meanwhile, during a hearing concerning the ban on live broadcasting of the PTI chief’s speeches, the Islamabad High Court had expressed displeasure over the statements as well.
CJ Minallah had remarked that Imran “should first decide what he wants” and that he should not “expect that courts will give any relief after doing all this”. “You should also hold yourself accountable,” the court had said referring to the PTI chief.
Later in the day, the Pakistan Army had also issued a statement saying it was “aghast at the defamatory and uncalled for statement about the senior leadership of Pakistan Army by [the] chairman PTI during a political rally at Faisalabad”.
The PTI leaders however had sprung to the defence of their party chief after Pakistan Army expressed anger at Imran Khan’s remarks, saying that the statement did not mean to cause any harm to the institution.