Never thought to appoint army chief of ‘own choice’: Imran

ISLAMABAD – Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) chairman Imran Khan on Wednesday denied unconfirmed reports and speculations, going round for the last couple of months that he wanted to appoint the next chief of army staff (COAS) of his own choice.

“I had never thought of appointing the army chief of my choice,” ex-premier Khan said, while addressing a seminar on ‘Regime Change Conspiracy and Pakistan’s Destabilisation’ organised by his own opposition party.

Khan again reiterated that he, while in the office of prime minister, had never thought of who would be the next army chief of the country.

“It was not any issue,” he said, adding that he wanted to make this appointment on merit when the time would come.

He claimed that he never violated merit in his life and asked the audience to tell him whether he ever gave positions to any of his relatives and friends when he had come into power. “This is because when you violate merit, you deprive someone of his rights,” said Khan, who was ousted from power in April this year through a vote of no-confidence.

Referring to the recent interview of Minister for Power,  Khurram Dastgir Khan, the PTI chief said that he did not need to appoint an army chief of his own choice because he neither committed corruption nor wanted to hide any theft. “We want to strengthen the army as an institution and this will become strong when there will be meritocracy.”

Dastgir, during a TV show had said that Khan had “fascist plans” to extend his rule for 15 years by getting the entire opposition leadership disqualified through appointment of 100 judges to expedite trials of corruption cases against them. He also said that an important change was going to happen by the end of this year—a reference to the appointment of COAS— which would have helped Khan to prolong his rule.

| Says his govt endeavoured to strengthen army as an institution and to promote meritocracy in institutions

Former prime minister Khan said that ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) had fears in its mind that he would appoint Corps Commander Peshawar Lt Gen Faiz Hamid as next chief of army staff in November this year. “It was their fear because they have stashed billions of dollars aboard,” he said.

He said that PML-N supremo Nawaz Sharif had problems with former army chiefs in the past because he wanted to control the Pakistan Army to hide his looted money. He accused that it was Sharif who always appointed the army chief of his choice by violating the merit. He added that both PML-N and Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) wanted to control the institutions to evade accountability. He said that then governments of both parties were sacked twice on corruption charges in 1990s.

He again, referring to the statement of Dastgir, asked why the ruling parties were frightened of the courts when the judiciary was independent in the country. Even if the 100 judges had to be appointed, then which thing were they afraid of?

PTI chief said that this was beyond his comprehension that Shehbaz Sharif would become prime minister of the country. “I had told the neutrals that he (Shehbaz) is facing a corruption case of 16 billion rupees in the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA),” he said while using the term neutral for Pakistan Army. He added that the  then finance minister Shaukat Tarin and he had tried to make understand the ‘neutrals’ that the country could not afford political instability and this US-backed foreign regime change conspiracy should be stopped.

The ex-premier again said that   one has to take side as “Allah has not allowed remaining neutral.”

Talking about the US regime change conspiracy, Khan revealed that the US did not want the betterment of any country but to safeguard its own interests.

“I am not anti-American, I want to have good relations with the US, but I cannot let them use us like ‘tissue papers’. The US wants us to recognise Israel and not talk about Kashmir so that India is strengthened, and to curtail China’s power,” he maintained.

“Pakistan is standing at the crossroads as people will have to choose between a hard path of real independence or being ruled by these cabal of crooks and dacoits,” he concluded.

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