Pakistan’s intelligence chief accused former Prime Minister Imran Khan of asking the country’s powerful military for “illegal and unconstitutional” support for his government, in a scathing and unprecedented news conference on Thursday.
The news conference by the chief of the country’s powerful Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), Lieutenant-General Nadeem Anjum, came after Khan upped his criticism of the military, accusing them of plotting his removal in April and supporting his opponents.
“(Khan’s criticism) is because the military and its chief refused to do illegal or unconstitutional things,” Anjum said, adding that the military had made a policy decision to stay out of politics, and hence turned down Khan’s persistent requests.
The shadowy ISI chief, who rarely makes public appearances, did not specify what Khan’s requests were.
A leader of Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf, Asad Umar, later denied any illegal requests were made.
Pakistan’s military has long been considered the most powerful institution in the country, directly ruling for more than three of the seven-and-a-half decades since independence and taking the lead in setting security and foreign policy even when civilians are in charge.
Analysts say the military was behind Khan’s ascent to prime ministership for the first time in 2018 – a charge both have consistently denied – before falling out last year.
Anjum admitted the military made mistakes in the past, but an institutional decision had been taken recently to stay out of politics.
An opposition alliance voted Khan out of power in a parliamentary vote in April. Khan has since launched a political blitz calling for a snap election. He announced he would stage a protest march from Lahore to Islamabad starting Friday.
The government says an election will be held as scheduled in October next year.
Speaking alongside Anjum, military spokesman Lieutenant-General Babar Iftikhar said the extraordinary step of getting the spy chief to speak in public was taken because of a smear campaign against the military.
Anjum said Khan and army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa had met recently in an attempt to reduce tensions. According to the spy chief, Khan would meet the military leadership in the “darkness of night” to ask for favours and then attack the same people next day.
He also said that, in March, as opposition pressure was mounting on Khan’s government, the then prime minister had offered Bajwa a “lifetime extension” as army chief, which was turned down.
Khan’s aide Fawad Chaudhry did not respond to a Reuters request for comment on whether such an offer was made.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)