Imran Khan accuses Nawaz Sharif of ‘playing India’s game’ for criticising country’s ‘powerful military’

‘He is 100 per cent getting backing from India, he is a coward and without that, he could not be doing anything’

More than a week after the major opposition political parties of Pakistan launched a formal alliance to hold a “three-phased anti-government movement under an action plan” to “oust Imran Khan’s government from Pakistan”, Khan has accused political rival and former three-time premier Nawaz Sharif of “playing India’s game” by criticising the country’s powerful military, as a bitter political feud deepens in the South Asian nation.

“Now he [Sharif] has gone [to the United Kingdom] and is playing India’s game. He is attacking Pakistan sitting over there. He is 100 percent getting backing [from India], he is a coward and without that, he could not be doing anything,” a report by Aljazeera quoted Khan as having said during an interview broadcasted late on Thursday.

The Pakistan PM was responding to renewed attacks on the government in recent weeks by Sharif, whose Pakistani Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) party has joined an opposition alliance in a bid to topple Khan’s government.

Ever since Sharif left Pakistan in last November, he is living in the UK as he cited health issues and a medical bail was granted to him. He was convicted and imprisoned on corruption charges in 2018 but was granted bail during his appeal.

Earlier on Thursday, Sharif addressed party leaders at a high-level meeting through a video link, accusing the Pakistan government of using “dual standards of accountability” in its anti-corruption drive.

On Monday, anti-corruption officials arrested Shehbaz Sharif, Nawaz’s younger brother and PML-N president, after his petition for an extension of bail in a corruption case was rejected, the report said.

Last month, the country’s main opposition parties, including Sharif’s PML-N, the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), JUI-F and several other smaller groups launched the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) alliance, taking aim at the country’s military for its alleged interference in governance.

Seeking “immediate resignation” from Prime Minister Imran Khan, a 26-point joint resolution was adopted by the All Parties Conference (APC), which was hosted by the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and attended by Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam Fazl (JUI-F) and several other parties.

Briefing reporters at the conclusion of more than eight-hour-long PPP-hosted a multi-party conference (MPC) which was also addressed by deposed Sharif and former president Asif Ali Zardari, the opposition leaders announced that they would “use all political and democratic options”, including no-confidence motions and en mass resignations from parliament, to seek “the selected prime minister’s resignation and an end to the role of the establishment in politics”.

The resolution alleged that the Khan government has been granted “fake stability by the same establishment” that interfered with the elections to bring the incumbent rulers to power.

In a reference to the Pakistan army, the resolution expressed “extreme concern” over the increasing interference of the establishment in the internal affairs of the country and regarded it as a “danger to the nation’s stability and institutions”.

Khan’s rivals allege he was backed by the military in the 2018 general election, and that the anti-corruption drive has been used to sideline his rivals, a charge he denies.

In the interview on Thursday with Aljazeera, Khan equated the military’s frequent takeovers of the country to the “mistakes” of some individuals.

“If in the past, an army chief made a mistake, then will we always disparage the army forever?” he asked. “[The] past is there only to learn from. What have we learned? We have learned that the military’s job is not to run the government.”

Nawaz Sharif was forced by the Supreme Court to step down as prime minister over corruption allegations in 2017 and was convicted and sentenced to a prison term a year later, just days ahead of the general election.

In a speech earlier this week, Sharif accused former Pakistani intelligence chief Zaheer-ul-Islam of threatening to overthrow his government in 2014, when Khan was leading anti-government protests in Pakistan’s capital, Islamabad.


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