Imran Khan 'Crossed The Red Line' By Openly Maligning State Institutions Without Evidence

Imran Khan 'Crossed The Red Line' By Openly Maligning State Institutions Without Evidence
LAHORE: Law enforcement agencies (LEAs) and the federal government have decided to initiate legal action against former premier Imran Khan for constantly maligning and accusing Pakistan’s armed forces, as well as serving military officials, for conspiring against him without any evidence, The Friday Times (TFT) has learnt. Well-placed sources purport that Pakistan's powerful establishment will be 'putting its foot down', as it can no longer tolerate or ignore the vicious propaganda campaign that former premier and PTI chairman Imran Khan has been running since more than a year now. 

Since his removal from the prime minister's office in April last year, Imran Khan has been relentlessly castigating state institutions, particularly the Pakistan army and its senior generals, for dethroning him from power. More recently, Khan has also been alleging that a senior serving army official is the one behind assassinate attack on him. While Khan does not have any evidence for this, it is likely that he has been influenced by the pro-PTI social media rumour mill and conspiracy theorist vloggers like the disgraced retired major Adil Raja, Haider Mehdi, and many other 'social media influencers' of questionable repute. 

PM Shehbaz defends army, Maj Gen Faisal against Khan's tirades 

It may be recalled that just a few days ago on May 7, premier Shehbaz Sharif tweeted that his predecessor Imran Niazi's act of routinely maligning and threatening the Pakistan army, and the Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) agency for the sake of his own parochial political gains was "highly condemnable". 

“His leveling of allegations without any proof against [Major] General Faisal Naseer and officers of our Intelligence Agency cannot be allowed and will not be tolerated,” the Pakistani premier wrote in his tweet. 

Imran’s questions in 'tweet-for-tat' response  

In replying to the premier, Imran Khan unleashed a series of tweets on May 8. Khan began by reminding everyone that he was "someone who has suffered two assassination attempts on his life in the last few months", and then proceeded to ask PM Shehbaz a few questions. 

“Have I, a citizen, the right to nominate those I feel were responsible for assassination attacks on me? Why was I denied my legal & Constitutional right to register an FIR?,” Khan asked. 

The former premier further asked if PM Shehbaz's tweet meant that military officers were above the law or that they could not commit any crimes. "If we allege one of them has committed a crime, how is the institution being maligned?," Khan queried. 

He further asked who was "so powerful as to sabotage Wazirabad JIT while the PTI govt was in power in Punjab?" 

In the first instance of him publicly accusing Pakistan's premier intelligence agency ISI of involvement in the alleged plots to assassinate him, Khan asked if PM Shehbaz Sharif could answer "why the ISI took over ICT Judicial Complex evening before my appearance there on 18 March? Why were ISI personnel in CTD & lawyers camouflage? What was the motive & what business did ISI have in the Complex?"

Khan has previously alleged that the second assassination attempt on him was "planned" for the Islamabad judicial complex on March 18. So far, neither Khan nor his party have provided any cogent evidence to back this allegation, and are focusing merely on the registration of a first information report (FIR) to use it as proof of their claim being true. 

“When Shehbaz can truthfully answer these Qs, all will point to one powerful man & his accomplices all being above the law. Then it is time for us to officially declare that in Pakistan there is only law of the jungle where Might is Right,” Khan's Twitter thread concluded. 

Questions for Imran Khan

In reply to Imran Khan’s series of questions, journalist and anchor Raza Zaidi asked him a few pertinent questions as well. Zaidi asked Khan when and where the second assassination attempt on Khan took place. "When you allege one military officer has committed a crime! What proof do you have? Or is it just a slander?," Zaidi asked. 

"How do you know that the ICT Judicial complex was taken over by ISI?," Zaidi asks, before suggesting that Khan ought to go to the court with proof, if he had any. 

"Swift Retort": ISPR issues angriest rejoinder yet to former PM Imran Khan

In its official statement issued on May 8, the military's official mouthpiece, the Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR) stated that chairman PTI leveled "highly irresponsible and baseless allegations against a serving senior military officer without any evidence". 

"These fabricated and malicious allegations are extremely unfortunate, deplorable and unacceptable. This has been a consistent pattern for the last one year wherein military and intelligence agencies officials are targeted with insinuations and sensational propaganda for the furtherance of political objectives," the ISPR press release stated. 

“We ask the political leader concerned to make a recourse to legal avenues and stop making false allegations. The institution reserves the right to take legal course of action against patently false and malafide statements and propaganda,” the ISPR said. 

Sources privy to the mood of the military establishment said that Imran Khan’s arrest is imminent, as he is "continuously bashing the state institutions and maliging them". To some, it even seemed as if Khan, once the blue eyed boy of the establishment, is "carrying forward the agenda of some hostile foreign intelligence agencies". It may be noted that previous attempts to arrest or apprehend Imran Khan did not bear fruit. 

One source was quick to remark that India's intelligence agency Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) had been trying for decades to weaken Pakistan's armed forces and portray a negative image of Pakistan globally. "If Khan is not in cahoots with such forces, then he has been playing into their hands and achieving their goals for them, which is very irresponsible and immature of him as a former prime minister". 

 ‘Enough is enough’

Sources privy to sensitive discussions in the upper echelons of the military establishment confirmed to TFT that the Pakistan army's top brass "had had enough of this now". 

These sources claim that the Pakistan army is now seriously considering the initiation of legal action against the former premier Imran Khan through formal and official channels. These sources assert that Khan's "hateful comments, aggressive speeches and vicious campaign to malign some decorated officers of the Pakistan army is in full swing, without any evidence to corroborate his serious allegations". It remains unclear which laws Khan will be charged under, as he is already facing a plethora of other cases against him, ranging from terrorism to corruption to blasphemy. 

It is possible that Khan, and his supporters who repeat his baseless claims against the military, could be charged and tried under Article 6 of the Constitution of Pakistan, which sets the parameters for prosecuting citizens who violate their loyalty to the state of Pakistan. A petition in this regard has already been submitted to the Balochistan high court. 

Sources maintain that the army's decades-long involvement in national politics could not be overlooked, but "now the army has been publicly stating for some time that the institution is apolitical, and they don’t want to be dragged into politics". Despite this, Imran Khan and his PTI have been constantly trying to drag the army back into politics, and have been excoriating the army and the military establishment for not resuming their 'invisible' support for Khan. 

Political leadership and armed forces 'on same page' when it comes to Imran Khan 

Sources privy to developments in the federal government apprised TFT that major leaders of coalition government, including prime minister Shehbaz Sharif and former president Asif Ali Zardari — both of whom have already publicly condemned Khan's allegations — are on 'the same page' with the armed forces of Pakistan. The PDM leadership has vowed to stand with the armed forces and support them against this poisonous tirade in leashed by Imran Khan and his supporters. 

Federal minister Khurram Dastagir Khan said that it was likely that PM Shehbaz Sharif will call the session of party heads of Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) parties in the coming few days. In this meeting, the country's democratic leadership will take a decision on how the political parties can best defend Pakistan's armed forces, whose serving officers are constantly, falsely and maliciously accused of crimes. 

“Let me be very clear that all PDM parties have been against the unconstitutional interference of armed forces in political matters. But we also have to make it clear that there is a difference between unconstitutional interference and officers being wrongly accused,” Dastagir said. He added that after consultations, the government will definitely take action against Khan and a legal course of action would soon be finalised. 

Pro-Imran bloggers carrying forward RAW agenda

Credible sources told TFT that some vloggers who support Imran Khan in his campaign against the armed forces — including disgraced army major Major Adil Raja, vlogger Haider Mehdi, and others — are not just in constant touch with Imran Khan to promote his narrative of bashing Pakistan's armed forces, but they were in touch with RAW as well. 

“One PTI worker Abdul Rehman Kamal recently recorded a statement in which he admitted that he was running an anti-army campaign using fake accounts since last year or so,” a senior intelligence official said on condition of strict anonymity.

The official maintained that another PTI social media worker, Wasif Kazmi, gave a sworn statement to law enforcement agencies where he also admitted that he was posting tweets against the army at the behest of Adil Raja and his wife Sabine Kiyani. 

"Irrefutable evidence against these vloggers has already been gathered, and soon, the law will take its course and these people will be tried for their activities in the court of law," the senior official asserted. 

Who is DGCI Major General Faisal Naseer? 

Military sources confirmed to TFT that the name of Major General Faisal Naseer, currently serving as deputy director general for counterintelligence (DGCI) at the ISI, has become a public fixture because he is often lambasted as the Clint Eastwood movie character ‘Dirty Harry’ by Imran Khan. Khan also accuses Maj Gen Naseer of attempting to assassinate him, as well as for the murder of Arshad Sharif in Kenya, without providing any evidence to support these damning claims. 

“Major General Faisal Naseer is a decorated army officer who is known as a tough, competent and professional intelligence operative," sources familiar with Maj Gen Naseer's dossier and track record said. 

Maj Gen Naseer has served in sensitive zones and conflict areas throughout his career, and has also taken part in important intelligence-based operations (IBOs) that the military and intelligence agencies undertake to preempt terror attacks. 

These credible sources maintained that Maj Gen Naseer officer was responsible for arresting or "bringing to justice" the most wanted terrorists across Pakistan over the last two decades. “He is being wrongly accused and made controversial without any evidence,” they said, adding that Khan had "crossed the red line" by maligning the Pakistan armed forces, the ISI and Maj Gen Naseer without any evidence. "Alleging that the ISI had anything to do with Arshad Sharif's murder was seen as a despicable allegation by not only the top brass, but also by the rank and file of the armed forces," multiple sources confirmed.

Sources familiar with the inner workings of the extremely secretive Pakistani intelligence system purport that the DGCI is only responsible for an internal security mandate, and accusing an officer serving as DGCI for an alleged operation carried out on foreign soil — as former premier Imran Khan is trying to insinuate with respect to Maj Gen Faisal Naseer — is "either shortsighted, or woefully uninformed". 

Sources also claim that Imran Khan is fearful that Maj Gen Faisal Naseer might be performing the same facilitation for the incumbent government which retired Lt Gen Faiz Hameed did for him, back when Hameed was DGCI and allegedly manipulating the judicial system to neutralise Nawaz Sharif and pave the way for Imran Khan's ascent to power. 

Indian media hyping Imran's statements against ISI 

It can be observed that the Indian media is giving a lot of coverage to Khan's criticism of the ISI, and his conspiracy theory that senior ISI commanders want him "eliminated". One reason for this coverage is that Maj Gen Faisal Naseer was posted in Balochistan during which terrorist networks sponsored and operated by RAW was completely destroyed. 

“The same officer was the main force behind the arrest of the RAW spy Kulbhushan Yadav,” sources affirmed . 

"No patriotic person could make allegations or carry forward propaganda like this against a competent officer without any evidence," they stated. 

Imran Khan’s anti-army narrative will face massive defeat 

Senior journalist Kamran Khan tweeted that the Pakistan army was "rightly concerned and angry". Imran Khan has been leveling malicious unfounded charges against serving officers, as well as two successive army chiefs one of whom has retired. Attacking the armed forces in the guise of challenging the military establishment has now become a cornerstone of Imran Khan's political campaign. 

“Running this sort of campaign from the closed doors of his Lahore residence will never yield any results,” Kamran Khan's tweet reads. 

Kamran Khan further maintained that the nation can't afford further rubbing of salt on its wounds. "In any case, when push comes to shove, the nation will protect the image of its army and Imran Khan's anti-army campaign will face massive defeat," Kamran Khan said.

The writer is a senior correspondent at The Friday Times with a focus on politics, economy and militancy. He also hosts the Hassan Naqvi Show on Naya Daur.