KARACHI: A debate about differences between PTI Chairman Imran Khan and army chief General Asim Munir has started again and the question is being raised as to what happened in 2019 when Imran Khan turned against General Asim, who was removed as ISI director general eight months after his appointment to the post.
A British daily, The Telegraph, published an article after a story in The News revealed that the differences between Imran Khan and Gen Asim started when the latter in his capacity as DG ISI told the former about his wife’s involvement in corruption. Then, Khan removed him and replaced him with a hardline general, Lt-Gen Faiz Hameed, who remained Imran Khan’s favorite DG ISI till his removal.
Khan has, however, refuted the whole incident. He, reacting to the Telegraph article two days ago, tweeted that, “This article claims that I appointed General Asim Munir as DG ISI who was forced to resign because he disclosed to me corruption cases of my wife Bushra Begum. This claim is completely false. Neither General Asim showed me any evidence of my wife’s corruption, nor did I force him to resign on that basis.”
But Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, while speaking on the floor of the Parliament yesterday, confirmed the incident and said: “This incident is true. The incumbent army chief, as DG ISI, had informed Imran Khan about his wife’s corruption after which Khan removed him from the post.”
Khan is now denying this entire incident, but he is not disclosing why he removed General Asim Munir from the post of the ISI chief. It is a fact that Khan had appointed Gen Asim Munir in October 2018 and suddenly removed him from this position after eight months in June 2019.
Hence, Khan has to explain as well as deny if the Telegraph article and PM Shehbaz’s claims are incorrect because this is not the first time that it has been reported that Khan removed Asim Munir because he revealed the details of his wife’s corruption to him. These details have come to the fore before. Umer Cheema, an investigative journalist of The News, in September 2022, brought to the light these details before Gen Asim became the army chief.
Umar Cheema said in his report in September 2022 that in June 2019, ISI chief General Asim Munir presented a dossier to then prime minister Imran Khan, which was related to Bushra Bibi and Farah Khan. Gen Asim presented the details that could be backed up with evidence. He said a business tycoon had given the first lady a diamond necklace, and other details were about Farah Khan’s interaction with influential people. Gen Asim said that these activities would tarnish the name of the prime minister who had maintained an image of honesty.
Umer Cheema further said in his report that, “Imran Khan instead of lauding it got angry and treated it as interference in his family matters and said not only Bushra Bibi but Farah Gogi was also like a family member and termed keeping track of her activities unacceptable and whatever he did after that was unacceptable to Gen Asim Munir. Imran Khan telephoned then COAS Qamar Javed Bajwa and issued instructions for his removal. Bajwa didn’t like Khan’s idea but followed his directive.”
Not only this, but on September 1, 2022, when journalist Aizaz Syed asked Imran Khan about the business tycoon gifting his wife a diamond set, Khan did not deny it, but said: “Let’s talk about something expensive.”
Several media outlets and journalists have already reported with regard to the removal of General Asim Munir as DG ISI in Khan’s government, but they don’t mention why Khan was against the appointment of General Asim. Khan had tried to make the appointment of General Asim Munir as chief of army staff controversial and had taken to the streets in November 2022, and when he could not stop the appointment, he proposed that then army chief Bajwa be given another extension.
Khan had agreed to give an extension to General Bajwa, who he claimed had overthrown his government because he wanted to prolong the appointment issue of the chief of army staff till the retirement of General Asim Munir.
Former prime minister of Azad Jammu and Kashmir Tanvir Ilyas also stated that the PTI’s long march prior to the appointment of army chief Asim Munir was also part of a conspiracy to stop General Asim from becoming the army chief. He said that Khan was asked to postpone the long march for further two days due to the local bodies elections in AJK, but Khan said that we have to stop Asim Munir from becoming the army chief.
However, the PDM alliance decided to appoint General Asim Munir as chief of army staff in November and sent a summary to President Arif Alvi, who instead of approving it went to Khan’s residence on a special plane and discussed the issue with him, and then signed the summary.
After the appointment of General Asim as chief of army staff, Imran Khan started praising him and gave a statement that he had heard that General Asim is Hafiz-e-Quran and that “we have many expectations from him”.
However, when the army chief refused to support the PTI’s political narrative, Khan again started to criticise him. On March 10, talking to international media, Khan had accused the army chief of implementing the “London Plan” and fulfilling the promises made to Nawaz Sharif.
Lately, Khan has been constantly criticising the army chief, and after his arrest, he even blamed the army leadership and intelligence agencies for the violence outside military offices and residences. But since the army has drawn a red line after Khan’s statement, the PTI chief has been saying he does not understand why the army is so angry with him. However, it’s quite clear why the army is so angry with him.