Pakistan’s Former Prime Minister Imran Khan, who is fighting over 150 legal battles on terrorism, violence, corruption, fraud and more, told Al Arabiya English he would “fight to the last drop of my blood” until the South Asian country embodies democratic policies.
“Unless Pakistan has rule of law, genuine freedom, which means democracy brings freedom, we have no future,” he stated in an exclusive, multi-faceted interview where he consistently singled out the “military establishment” as puppeteering the country.
“The PDM [Pakistan Democratic Movement] and all these political parties, without the military establishment, they are nothing. If there are elections, they would be wiped out. Out of the 37 by-elections, my party swept 30 elections despite the [military] establishment supporting them. So really, they are just puppets. The real power is the military establishment,” Khan said.
The current government, led by Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and backed by the army, has cracked down on the former cricket player and his supporters over the last month who have defected or been jailed, isolating Khan further from the prospects of returning to power.
“In Pakistan right now, we have the law of the jungle. There is no rule of law left. The judiciary has completely been undermined. The media has been completely muzzled. The media is completely controlled. My political party, which is the largest party in Pakistan; the worst sort of victimization is taking place,” Khan said, adding that democracy is being “dismantled.”
Despite Khan’s harsh remarks against the long-standing so-called military establishment, it is widely known and accepted that the army in 2018 was instrumental in appointing the now 70-year-old as prime minister. The relation took a turn for the worse when Khan tried to influence some decisions in the system.
Khan, who founded the Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), was ousted as Prime Minister on April 10, 2022, nearly four years after winning the position by general election. In over 75 years, no prime minister in Pakistan has held power for the full five-year term.
‘Adolf Hitler did this’
Likening his arrest in court and the ensuing violence from this supporters on May 9 by paramilitary forces to the crackdown conducted by the German dictator Adolf Hitler during the burning of the parliament building – the Reichstag fire – in 1933, Khan said: “The whole thing was preplanned, the way I was picked up, the police could have just taken me. I’m a 70-year-old man. You don’t need a commando action to pick him up.”
“The reaction – there was going to be a reaction – they used to completely go after the party and dismantle the party. In fact, in 1933, Adolf Hitler did this. The German parliament in Berlin was burned. He used that as an excuse to completely go out of after his rivals, which were the communists, and he destroyed them,” Khan told Al Arabiya English exclusively.
Khan also repeatedly claims he faces numerous assassination attempts after a shooting in November 2022 injured him during a rally.
The fighting between rival parties comes even as the nation tries to alleviate the effects of one of its worst economic downturns with record inflation levels and next-to-none foreign reserves.
After his isolation from the party and power, Khan publicly stated his willingness to converse with army generals to end the fighting.
“Yes, I am isolated because all my senior leadership is either hiding or is in jail, and I have no doubt that they will sooner or later put me in jail too,” he told Al Arabiya English.
“Dialog means it has to be two ways. So far, there’s no response from the current army chief,” he added.
An anti-terrorism court in Pakistan issued non-bailable arrest warrants against the former premier on Tuesday, over a month since he was freed on bail on May 12 for an initial two weeks, obtained a three-day extension from a high court and later a further delay from the trial court until June 19. Khan said he wants to know why the so-called establishment is working toward his political demise.
“I want to find out what is the problem the army chief has with me. I need to know this because he clearly has decided that I am someone who should not be in power. So I need to understand that. What are the issues? What, what does he want?”
“Simply by saying that the army chief has decided that Imran Khan should not be the prime minister, it makes no sense. There has to be some reasoning behind it. So that’s number one. We need to know… and then whatever is good for Pakistan should be done.”
“If the army chief can convince me that Imran Khan staying out of power is good for Pakistan, then maybe I will stay out of power,” Khan said.
Khan is hopeful for the elections that must be held by October 2023. He is increasingly voicing antipathy against the army chief and the military powers, in a significant deviation from standard procedures wherein the army’s control over the government is not publicly remarked by ruling party officials – current or former.
“…No matter what the establishment and these government parties do, no matter how many of our seniors they put into jail, the vote pack is in millions. How can they put the voters in jail? So as long as the vote pack is intact, we will win, Inshallah, the next election,” Khan said.