Islamabad: Cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan has said he will insist on civilian supremacy over Pakistan's powerful military if his party comes to power and would rather resign if the army and the ISI does not function under him if he becomes the Prime Minister.
Days after his Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf party stunned its opponents by drawing a mammoth crowd during a rally in Lahore, Khan said that if he becomes the Prime Minister after the next election, he would press for civilian supremacy over the army and the Inter-Services Intelligence agency so that he could implement his agenda.
"Unless I can implement my agenda – which means I take responsibility for everything that's happening in Pakistan, it means that the army is under me, it means the ISI can do nothing unless it reports to me, it means that the army's budget is audited by a civilian set-up, it means I take responsibility for anything that's happening outside my country, it means I take responsibility that no terrorism will take place from Pakistani soil – otherwise, I would resign,"
he told Karan Thapar in an interview with CNN-IBN'.
58-year-old Khan was responding to a question on whether he would challenge army chief Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani and the Corps Commanders and insist on civilian supremacy.
Asked specifically if he would be Gen Kayani's boss if he became the premier, Khan replied: "100 per cent. I have never, ever been controlled by anyone. (If) the people give me the mandate to be the Prime Minister and I'll be someone's puppet – people know me for 35 years. I've never been controlled by
Khan is widely expected to get the support of certain segments such as youth and women disenchanted by widespread corruption and a perceived lack of governance under the Pakistan People's Party-led government.
The army has played a key role in shaping the government's foreign and security policy, especially policies related to the US and India.
But Khan said all that would change under any government formed by his party. He noted that powerful leaders like Pakistan's founder
Muhammad Ali Jinnah and PPP founder Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto had never brooked interference by the army. "When Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto was Prime Minister, he sacked the army chief and the air chief... When the great Jinnah was in charge, you could never imagine the army asserting itself.
We have non-leaders in Pakistan. These people are here to make money. They are not interested in governance," he said in the interview to be aired tonight. The army was controlling the situation in Balochistan province, the tribal areas and the erstwhile Taliban stronghold of Swat with "no civilian input" while the
country's largest city of Karachi was controlled by the paramilitary Pakistan Rangers, Khan said.
Asked about media reports that his party had the backing of the military and questioned about his lack of criticism of the military, Khan contended that he had never been controlled by anyone in his public life of 35 years.
"Have I got a price? Can anyone buy me?" he asked. "Why should I criticise (the army chief) when in a parliamentary democracy, the Prime Minister is the head of state? He has all the authority, he has all the responsibility," he said.
He claimed the premier was responsible for tackling any corruption in the army. "This is supposed to be a democratic set-up, either they should say that they are not in charge (or) they should resign. If they cannot be responsible for what is going on in Pakistan, they should resign," he said.
He said he had confidence that his party would perform well in the next elections because the electronic media had revolutionised Pakistan by raising the level of political awareness and because President Zardari had "exposed the true face of Pakistani politics".
He claimed President Asif Ali Zardari had "bought everyone, co-opted the entire political class and he's taken them down with him". The recent rally in Lahore was the culmination of a series of events that showed a change among the people and the politicisation of the youth and women, he said.
He listed economic problems and terrorism as the two major challenges facing Pakistan. Khan said he proposed to tackle the economy by increasing the collection of taxes, without which the country would be "unviable".
Khan explained his proposal to stop taking aid from the US, saying foreign assistance only "props up crooks like our President". Aid comes with strings attached, stops a country from making reforms needed to structure government and helps "crooked and incompetent" governments, he contended. He reiterated his position that terrorism could be tackled if the US stopped drone strikes and the Pakistan Army withdrew from the tribal areas.
He claimed tribal elders had told him they could "get rid of the terrorists" in a month once the army pulled out. Khan said Gen Kayani had told a recent meeting of Pakistan's political parties that the army is "stuck" in the
Asked if he was the answer to Pakistan's problems, Khan replied: "Not because I'm something brilliant, it's just because everyone else has failed."