Sharif, Zardari lambast ‘despicable’ Imran for ‘maligning’ military

ISLAMABAD: A day after Imran Khan accused them of wanting to “appoint an army chief of their choice” to save their skin in graft cases, Shehbaz Sharif and Asif Ali Zardari, whose Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) is a member of the ruling coalition, Monday lambasted former prime minister over the “despicable” attempt to “malign (state) institutions.”

Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa, appointed as the Chief of Army Staff in 2016, was set to retire in 2019 but was granted a three-year extension that expires in the last week of November. A military spokesman has said he’s no desire to seek another extension, adding that a new chief of the army would be appointed by the prime minister.

Addressing a rally in Faisalabad late on Sunday, Khan said the ruling Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) coalition wanted “to bring their own army chief (because) they are afraid that if a strong and patriotic army chief is appointed then he would ask them about the looted wealth.”

In saying so Khan implied that an “unpatriotic” army chief could be among the candidates for the top slot. Stressing that Gen. Bajwa’s successor should be chosen purely on merit, he said described Zardari and Sharif as “traitors” who could not be trusted with the fate of the country.

“Imran Niazi’s despicable utterances to malign institutions are touching new levels every day. He is now indulging in direct mud-slinging and poisonous allegations against Armed Forces & its leadership,” the prime minister said in a strong-worded tweet.

“His nefarious agenda is clearly to disrupt and undermine Pakistan.”

Zardari soon followed suit. In a statement shared on Twitter, he said the nation was now aware of the person spreading chaos in the country.

“Today, everyone knows [who is the] man and the beast. This man [Khan] is determined to weaken the country, but we won’t let that happen,” he alleged, vowing the government won’t let the state institutions and generals fall prey to Khan’s “lust”.

The former president also criticised the governments of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Punjab for “not actively participating” in the flood relief efforts, claiming that everywhere only the federal government could be seen.

Minister for Planning and Development Ahsan Iqbal tweeted that amid the catastrophic floods, Khan had resorted to polluting the political space.

“Imran Niazi continues to pollute the political space and push the country towards extreme polarisation and putting blots on all state institutions including the appointment of new COAS.”

“What is his end game? More anarchy and chaos,” he asked.


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