Ousted Pakistani PM criticizes government and military

ISLAMABAD (AP) — Ousted Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan expanded his fight with the government in an overnight speech accusing officials of delaying snap elections to control who will be the next army chief. This claim was condemned by the government and the army on Monday.

Khan made the remarks on Sunday at a rally of his Tehreek-e-Insaf party in Faisalabad, a city in Punjab province. He was referring to the replacement of the outgoing army chief, General Qamar Javed Bajwa, who is retiring in November.

It was the first time that Khan, who is seeking to return to power and faces charges of threatening police and a judge, has attacked the army so brutally and raised questions about the credentials of senior generals.

His remarks were seen as an insult to the military leadership, which has ruled Pakistan for half of its 75-year history.

“A new army chief is coming in November,” Khan said on Sunday, adding that Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif’s coalition government wanted to avoid a “patriotic” army chief who would question senior officials about how they got their money.

Sharif took to Twitter on Monday, claiming Khan had slandered the military.

In a statement, the military also said it was “appalled” by Khan’s statement.

“Politicizing the senior leadership of the Pakistani military and scandalizing the COAS (Chief of Army Staff) selection process is neither in the interests of the Pakistani state nor the institution,” the army said.

Khan came to power in 2018 and was ousted over defiance of parliament in April.

But Khan claims he was ousted as a result of an American plot, a charge Washington and the Sharif government deny. Since his release, he has stepped up his campaign to overthrow Sharif’s government through “people’s pressure”.

Khan wants Sharif to agree to hold early elections, a request Sharif has rejected.

Last month, Sharif’s government filed terrorism charges against Khan for threatening Islamabad’s police chief and a judge in his speech at another rally. But, a court later released him on bail, protecting him from arrest.

Although Khan initially had a great relationship with his army chief, trouble for him began when he resisted the appointment of a new army chief by Bajwa who wanted to replace Lt. -General Faiz Hameed, the director general of Inter-Services Intelligence. Eventually, Bajwa kidnapped Hameed, Khan’s favorite spy chief, which caused a rift between Khan and Bajwa.

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