While claiming that he never thought of picking the next army chief of his choice because appointments against merit ruined institutions, Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan on Wednesday said the country was passing through a defining moment and everybody should play their role for its ‘true independence’.

Speaking to the participants of a seminar “Regime Change Conspiracy and Pakistan’s Destabilisation”, former prime minister Imran reiterated that federal minister Khurram Dastgir of the PML-N had “confessed” the then opposition parties ganged up on him because he was planning to appoint Lt Gen Faiz Hameed as the new army chief to allegedly execute his agenda to rule the country for the next 15 year without interference. However, he claimed, he had no such plans because he believed in meritocracy.

Lashing out at PML-N supreme leader Nawaz Sharif, he alleged that the former premier tried to pick his favourites for such prestigious positions because he had to protect his ill-gotten wealth and looted money.

“I have never even forced Shaukat Khanum Hospital to appoint a person on my orders. How can I do it as a prime minister?” he questioned.

Imran said he had started his struggle 26 years ago against Nawaz and PPP leader Asif Ali Zardari whose sole purpose, he alleged, was loot and plunder.

Talking about his US-backed regime change conspiracy theory, he alleged the US did not want the betterment of any country but only wanted to safeguard its interests. Providing military bases to the US was not in Pakistan’s interest, which was why he had flatly refused to do so, he claimed.

“I am not anti-America, I want to have good relations with the US, but I cannot let them use us like ‘tissue papers’. The US wants us to recognise Israel and not talk about Kashmir so that India is strengthened, to curtail China’s power,” he maintained.

Imran said that Pakistan had been exploited in the US-led war on terrorism, and questioned what Pakistan got in exchange for becoming a partner with the US in its war, as Washington gave $20 billion in aid to the country that ended up suffering a loss of over $150bn in that war.

Talking about the military operations in the former tribal areas, the PTI chairman said the government committed a blunder by sending troops to the region, causing a huge loss to the area as well as the country. He lamented that anybody who opposed military operations against their own countrymen was instantly labelled as terrorists.

“Pakistan is standing at a crossroads, as people will have to choose between the difficult path of real independence or being ruled by this cabal of crooks and dacoits,” he declared.

He went on to say that the election commission had lost its credibility and could not even hold a free, fair and peaceful election in one constituency [in Karachi]. This would dent the democratic process the most, he maintained.

Former information minister Fawad Chaudhry claimed that although the cipher sent by Islamabad’s ambassador to the US clearly mentioned that the no-confidence motion would be moved, a narrative was now being built that if the PTI government was not sent packing the economic problems would have further aggravated. He alleged that the current rulers wanted to improve relations with India and Israel and an environment was being built to hand over military bases to the US.

Former human rights minister Shireen Mazari said the US used different tactics to change regimes in different regions.

Meanwhile, on Tuesday night, speaking on an ABC TV show, Imran repeated almost all his claims regarding the regime change conspiracy, his government’s economic performance, handling of Covid-19, corruption allegations against the ruling coalition leadership and what overseas Pakistanis meant to the PTI.

“It’s never happened before that the diaspora in different countries turned out to protest in such large numbers as it did in my support after the regime change. Normally, when regimes change in Pakistan, people distribute sweets, but this is the only time millions of people came out to protest within and out of the country. Overseas Pakistanis are one of our greatest assets,” he told the anchor at the end.

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