Pakistan PM Shehbaz Sharif condemns ‘disgusting’ smear campaign against Army Chief General Asim Munir

In a tweet, Sharif directly held Khan responsible for the campaign against Gen Munir.

Pakistan Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif
Pakistan Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif

Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif on Monday strongly condemned the “disgusting” smear campaign against Pakistan Army chief General Asim Munir and other institutions by his predecessor Imran Khan and urged Pakistanis living abroad to raise their voices against it.

Khan, the chief of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party, has accused Gen Munir of orchestrating the crackdown against him last week by the country’s security personnel in a corruption case.

“The campaign against the Army chief is intolerable and a continuation of the conspiracy against the institutions,” Prime Minister Sharif was quoted as saying by the PM Office.

In a tweet, Sharif directly held Khan responsible for the campaign against Gen Munir.

“PTI’s disgusting smear campaign against Chief of the Army Staff General Asim Munir at the behest of Imran Niazi is deserving of the strongest condemnation,” he tweeted.

“This man (Khan) is stooping to unprecedented lows in his desperation for power & going to the extent of damaging the country & undermining our armed forces & their leadership,” he said in another tweet.

Prime Minister Sharif said the campaign against Gen Munir, who he said was the “first army chief to be appointed on merit in Pakistan,” could only be the agenda of the enemies of Pakistan.

Gen Munir, who served as chief of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), replaced Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa as the Chief of Army Staff in November last year.

Sharif said “toxic politics” was being spread, as he urged patriotic Pakistanis living abroad to raise their voices against the “foreign-funded campaign.” The Pakistan Prime Minister also blamed Khan for dragging heads of state institutions for his dirty politics, which he said was against the Constitution.

“Strict legal action should be taken against those who instigate chaos, riots and rebellion in Pakistan,” the premier warned.

Pakistani police on Sunday registered a terrorism case against Khan and over a dozen PTI leaders for indulging in vandalism, attacking security personnel and creating unrest outside the judicial complex here ahead of a court hearing in a graft case involving the ousted premier.

Clashes erupted outside the Islamabad Judicial Complex on Saturday when Khan arrived in Islamabad from Lahore to attend a much-awaited hearing in the Toshakhana case.

Khan has been in the crosshairs for buying gifts, including an expensive Graff wristwatch he had received as the premier at a discounted price from the state depository called Toshakhana, and selling them for profit.

Established in 1974, the Toshakhana is a department under the administrative control of the Cabinet Division and stores precious gifts given to rulers, parliamentarians, bureaucrats, and officials by heads of other governments and states and foreign dignitaries.

Khan was disqualified by the Election Commission of Pakistan in October last year for not sharing details of the sales.

The election body later filed a complaint with the district court to punish him, under criminal laws, for selling the gifts he had received as prime minister of the country.

Khan has vehemently denied those charges.

Meanwhile, Lahore Police on Sunday booked Khan and over 1,000 PTI workers under terrorism charges in two cases.

The number of cases against Khan has climbed up to 97.

Police claimed to have recovered rifles, Kalashnikovs, bullets, marbles and petrol bombs from his house during the search operation.

Khan, 70-year-old cricketer-turned-politician, was ousted from power in April last year after losing a no-confidence vote, which he alleged was part of a US-led conspiracy targeting him because of his independent foreign policy decisions on Russia, China, and Afghanistan.

Since his ouster, Khan has been demanding early elections to remove what he termed an “imported government” led by prime minister Sharif.

Sharif has maintained that elections will be held later this year once the parliament completes its five-year tenure.

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First published on: 20-03-2023 at 17:29 IST