ISLAMABAD: A day after Nawaz Sharif fired a fresh salvo against the government and the establishment, Prime Minister Imran Khan gave a no-holds-barred rejoinder to his political arch-nemesis, heaping scorn on him for “trying to sow discord in the military, the judiciary, and the government” in an attempt to escape accountability for his massive financial corruption”.

His remarks came during an animated address to a Tiger Force convention in Islamabad, in which he dismissed opposition’s power show of yesterday in Gujranwala as a “circus”.

Commenting on the speech given by Nawaz during the opposition rally, Prime Minister Imran said the PML-N leader was using inappropriate “language” against the army and ISI chiefs at a time when Pakistani soldiers were constantly sacrificing their lives for the nation.

The premier while describing the prevailing geopolitical scenario said the government of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi hated Pakistan and Muslims “more than any other Indian government in the history of the subcontinent”.

“There are constant attacks on our soldiers; they are sacrificing their lives every day,” he said, noting that 20 security personnel were martyred in two attacks on Thursday.

“Why are they sacrificing their lives? For us; for the country. And this jackal (geedar) who ran with his tail between his legs used such language for the army chief and DG ISI,” he added, referring to Nawaz.

While addressing the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) rally via video link from London, Nawaz on Friday had accused the security establishment of being behind his ouster as prime minister and of “bringing Imran Khan into power”.

He named Army Chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa and ISI chief Lt Gen Faiz Hameed, alleging that they were responsible for making a “state above the state” and for the presence of “two governments” in the country, among other things.

Recalling the origins of Nawaz’s political career, Prime Minister Imran said he had first become a minister through the patronage of Gen (retd) Ghulam Jilani and reached chief ministership by “polishing the boots of Gen Ziaul Haq”. He also accused the PML-N leader of having received “crores of rupees from the Mehran Bank to fight elections against the PPP”, saying the ISI chief at the time had submitted a report in this regard to the Supreme Court.

“It is unfortunate that our country’s courts have always helped him. This is the man who put [PPP co-chairperson Asif Ali] Zardari in jail twice. It was Zardari who instituted the Hudaibiya Paper Mills case against him, not Gen [Qamar Javed] Bajwa.”

The premier cited several books written by Western authors which he said detailed Nawaz and Zardari’s alleged corruption during their first stints in power.

“These people can sell the country to save their stolen money,” he said, adding that the books he mentioned were “not written by Gen Bajwa”.

“What they did to their country is what Mir Jafar and Mir Sadiq did to their people. This attack is not on Gen Bajwa but the Pakistan Army. This is the same thing Narendra Modi was talking about,” he said.

Imran said Modi had repeatedly said that he liked Nawaz but that “the Pakistani army chief is a terrorist”. “Why doesn’t he say the same about me? Because I showed his true extremist picture to the world,” he added.

Before his address took on a more serious tone, Prime Minister Imran showed a video clip, purportedly 11 years old, in which he had “predicted” the coming together of the opposition to protect their alleged corruption and even displayed a combination image of Nawaz before and after he left for London for medical treatment, suggesting that the PML-N leader had gotten better by just leaving the country.

Imran said he would not comment on the speeches done by PML-N Vice President Maryam Nawaz and PPP Chairperson Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari, referring to them as “kids” who were raised on their fathers’ “haraam (prohibited) earnings”.

The premier said Indian newspapers were praising Nawaz for espousing democracy but questioned whether they were unaware that “Ziaul Haq gave him a pacifier and this is the Nawaz Sharif who bought the judiciary”.

“The Indian newspapers are praising Sharif for championing democracy,” the prime minister said before going on to expose the duplicity of Indian media. “Don’t they know this is the Nawaz Sharif who was nurtured by [military dictator Gen] Ziaul Haq! Isn’t he the same Nawaz Sharif who had attacked and tried to buy the judiciary?”

“He is only with the judiciary as long as it rules in his favour. When the judiciary closes the Hudaibiya Paper Mills case, he praises it, but cries foul when he is convicted in the Panama Papers case. Did Gen Bajwa leak the Panama Papers?”

The prime minister also scoffed at the opposition’s allegations of rigging in the 2018 elections as 50% fewer petitions were filed for vote recount as compared to the 2013 elections. However, he claimed that the government “documentary evidence” that the PML-N had spent Rs2.5 billion from state funds to win the NA-120 by-polls, adding that the case had been forwarded to the National Accountability Bureau.

“The opposition has only seen one Imran Khan … The Imran Khan they will now see will be different,” he said, adding that “no dacoit will be given a production order of any sort.”

While addressing the judiciary and NAB, he said “the people are tired and awaiting justice and completion of cases. I request the chief justice, whatever logistical support you need from the government, we are ready to provide that but for God’s sake hold day-to-day hearings in order to conclude these cases [involving opposition leaders].”

Prime Minister Imran further said opposition members will “no longer be kept in VIP jails” and will be sent to ordinary prisons.

He added that although NAB and the judiciary are independent, he will “personally prepare” the institutions under him to catch every person who has looted money and taken it abroad.

Once again addressing the courts, the premier said Nawaz was trying to “create choas” within the judiciary and the army and “appealing to the Israeli and Indian lobby in the US”.

“I know the game he is playing; I have all the intelligence. It makes no difference to me who the army chief or DG ISI is because I am not stealing any money.”

He lauded Gen Bajwa for standing with his government during “the difficult period”, saying the army had taken a cut in the defence expenditure for two years and supported the government’s foreign policy throughout.

“Nawaz Sharif, from today it will be my full effort to bring you back to this country and we will keep you in an ordinary jail, not a VIP one.”

While addressing Corona Relief Tiger Force (CRTF) volunteers, the prime minister sought to explain the reasons for double-digit inflation in the country.

He said Pakistan had a record trade deficit of Rs40 billion when the PTI came into power. Because of the deficit, the rupee fell sharply against the dollar which in turn made imports, such as those of food items, more expensive.

Additionally, he said, for two years the rain fell when wheat was set to be harvested. The country needed 2.7 million tonnes of wheat but because of a deficit, its price started rising, the premier said.

“We got to know about it late because the system for determining it was non-functional. We have now imported to compensate for the shortage. [But] the market did not know and hoarding started. It is a big curse in our country and I need you for this,” he told the volunteers.

He directed Tiger Force members “not to interfere anywhere personally” and only take a picture and upload that and the location where a product is being hoarded to the government’s portal.

“It is the job of the administration to take action. You have to go to shops where prices are not displayed and you have to take and send a picture. I repeat, you do not have to interfere yourselves,” Imran said, adding that there was a risk some people would pose as Tiger Force members to mint money from traders.

The prime minister’s instructions come after opposition parties and traders opposed the government move to deploy Tiger Force volunteers for checking prices of food items to help it control inflation.

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