Ready to talk to army chief ‘for betterment of country’: Imran Khan

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LAHORE, MAR 3: Former prime minister Imran Khan on Friday said he was ready to talk to Chief of Army Staff General Asim Munir “for the betterment of the country”, stressing he has “no quarrel with the establishment”.

In a wide-ranging discussion with reporters at his Zaman Park residence in Lahore, he touched upon politics, his ties with the military, his frustration with retired army chief Qamar Javed Bajwa and why he chose not to fly to Islamabad for court hearings.

The remarks come hours after President Arif Alvi announced April 30 as the date for elections in Punjab, a demand the PTI has been pushing.

When asked why he was not speaking to the “establishment” — a euphemism for the military — he said he never had a quarrel with the establishment, and it was Gen Bajwa that “stabbed me in the back”.

He added that even after he lost his government, he spoke to Gen Bajwa for the betterment of the country. “But it was General Bajwa who wanted to crush me,” he said. “But if anyone thinks that I will bend the knee, that cannot happen.”

Imran also criticised the retired general for “delivering a speech against Russia” and demanded that he be “court-martialed for this speech”.

“I am willing to speak to the establishment even now — for the betterment of the country — but if no one is willing to talk, what can I do?” he asked.

He then said that “it seems like the [current] army chief is considering me his enemy”.

He then challenged the incumbent army chief to prove any corruption case against him and his wife.

Speaking about the state of his ties with former Punjab chief minister Parvez Elahi, who recently left PML-Q and joined PTI, he said the establishment lacked an understanding of politics. “They tried their best to make Chaudhry Parvez Elahi leave my side.”

“Now we will have to show him loyalty,” Imran added, emphasising that he could not betray anyone.

The comments are the latest in a barrage of criticism for the retired general. Imran had also recently voiced his demand for an internal military inquiry against Gen Bajwa in an interview with Voice of America Urdu, which aired on Feb 10.