‘My only regret is trusting General Bajwa,’ says Imran – DAWN.com

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PTI founder Imran Khan has said that his only regret from his time in power was trusting former army chief General (retd) Qamar Javed Bajwa, whom he held responsible for “creating lies and false narratives”, allegedly to secure a second extension as the military head.

The former premier, who is currently incarcerated at Adiala Jail in a string of cases against him, blasted Pakistan’s political and military leaders — with a special focus on his friend-turned-foe Gen Bajwa — in an interview with journalist Mehdi Hasan for Zeteo that was published on Wednesday.

The interview was conducted through a letter Mehdi sent with questions for Imran, and the journalist was not allowed to ask follow-up questions.

When asked who he blames for his imprisonment, Imran said: “I am certain that this ordeal was orchestrated by General Bajwa. I hold no one else responsible.

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“He meticulously planned and executed this scheme, presenting himself as a deceitful figure, creating lies and false narratives to cause national and international chaos — all to secure his extension.

In 2019, Imran, who was prime minister at the time, approved an extension for Gen Bajwa for another three years, barely three months before the army chief was set to retire. However, in a 2022 interview with Bol News, Imran said he committed a mistake by granting the extension.

“He (Bajwa) utterly failed to grasp the detrimental impact of his actions on democracy and Pakistan,” Imran said in his interview with Mehdi.

When asked whether he still believed the administration of US President Joe Biden was involved in a coup to remove him from office, Imran put the blame firmly and solely on ex-chief of army staff Bajwa.

“General Bajwa single-handedly spread stories about me to countries like the US, painting me as anti-American or uninterested in good relations with them,” he said.

“His insatiable thirst for power rendered him unpredictable,” Imran said, adding that “[Gen Bajwa’s] personal greed turned him into a bull in a china shop.”

The PTI founder stated that he has consistently fought for the rule of law in Pakistan, adding that if justice were served equally, there would be no need for someone like him in the country’s politics.

He also said he has maintained good relations with most countries, especially after his government was toppled. His comments came in response to Mehdi’s statement that he was left with no friends, had a falling out with Saudi Arabia and “went to war with Pakistani generals and politicians”.

“General Bajwa’s poison may have had a short-term effect, but it will not last,” Imran said.

“Most countries view our army as a stabilising force in a volatile political landscape. When the chief of this ‘one constant’ uses brute force and deceit, it becomes difficult for many countries to speak out.

“I don’t mind if no one speaks about my treatment, but the world should raise its voice for democracy and the 250 million people of Pakistan, whose mandate has been stolen in broad daylight.”

Since the February 8 General Elections — which his party was unable to contest after the Supreme Court stripped it of its electoral symbol — Imran has maintained that he was ready for any potential dialogue after the “stolen mandate” was returned, referring to alleged rigging in the elections.

When asked whether he recognised the current government, Imran said it “lacks legitimacy”, and that PML-N “barely won any seats in Parliament”.

The violence, torture and pre-poll rigging were evident, Imran said. “After the elections, it took them nearly two days to alter the results.”

He urged Mehdi to look into the alleged tampering of Form 45, which he said “they couldn’t even do [that] properly.”

Imran claimed that any Pakistani would share his view that the current government was not legitimate. “My party’s victory was clear, despite their efforts to undermine our identity and leadership.”

He told the journalist that he did not regret his actions and was only fulfilling “his duty as a Pakistani and a Muslim”.

He attributed his popularity among the people to the fact that he “would never lie to them”.

“They know no amount of money can buy or change me,” he said. “They know I will never bow down and disappoint them.”

When asked what his message to the world was, Imran reiterated that this was “not just about Imran Khan. This is an attack on democracy and the right to self-determination of 250 million people.

“Only one political party has been attacked in every conceivable way,” he said, listing recent events against PTI members, including an attack on information secretary Raoof Hasan, the blocking of social media platform X and the alleged prohibition of mentioning his name on TV.

“Every party in this country describes this election as the worst in our history. Elections are supposed to bring stability by earning the people’s trust and mandate. This election has achieved neither, only creating more uncertainty and a greater trust deficit between the people and the ruling elite.”

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