PTI’s Backchannel Discussions with Military
The timeline of “backchannel discussions” between the PTI and the establishment was disclosed by estranged PTI leader Major (retired) Khurram Hameed Khan Rokhri on Thursday as he refuted accusations made by former premier Imran Khan against senior intelligence official Maj Gen Faisal Naseer.
Rokhri claimed that Gen. Naseer was a “principled” and “professional man” who would never “sell his dignity to appease someone” in an interview with Hamid Mir on Geo News.
Rokhri, a former soldier himself, is claimed to be one of Imran’s personal advisers and is in charge of the PTI chapter in North Punjab. He received a show-cause notice earlier this week from the PTI’s senior leadership for reportedly supporting Gen Naseer on television.
Interview on Geo
In the interview on Thursday, Mr. Rokhri recalled that a meeting was held in Bani Gala a few days after Shahbaz Gill was detained and it was mentioned there that a new officer had been assigned to Islamabad with the intention of “eliminating PTI and Imran Khan’s narrative.”
“I said wait on a second when Gen. Faisal Naseer’s name was called. I now know Gen Naseer in the same way as you do with others at Geo News or in the media,” he said to Mr. Mir.
Involvement of Salman Ahmed
“Salman Ahmed, the leader of the PTI, asked me what the story was as they were heading to a rally in Jhelum the following day, so I instructed Salman to tell Mr. Khan this. I’ll get right to the point here.”
“Salman informs Mr. Khan that his surroundings do not have the same views about Gen. Faisal Naseer as one of his close aides. Salman responded that it was Maj. Khurram when Mr. Khan questioned who that guy was,” he claimed.
Mr. Rokhri continued, “Mr. Khan then told Salman to ask me to confront Gen. Naseer.”
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“I made Gen. Naseer aware of my desire to meet him by calling him. I questioned the general if he had been posted for this reason when I first met him,” he said. He claimed that Gen Naseer informed him that he had been posted 20 days prior to the death of Gen Sarfaraz.
“Why would I want to do this? I’m a professional man. Imran Khan is the head of Pakistan’s largest political party and a national hero, so why would I want that? And if Imran is being told this, please go tell him that there is no such thing,” the general reportedly said, according to Mr. Rokhri.
The officer was then requested to meet with the PTI leadership, according to Mr. Rokhri. He responded, “I’m sitting on a constitutional seat and meeting political leadership is my role,” to this.
Instructions to Fill Gaps
The alienated PTI leader asserted that after relaying this discussion to the party’s top brass, he received instructions to “fill the gap” and schedule another meeting with Gen Naseer.
The intelligence officer allegedly stated in the second meeting that the institution admired the people and the leader they chose, according to Mr. Rokhri. Gen. Naseer reassured me that there would be no obstacles from his end and asked that I refrain from disparaging the military hierarchy on stage.
He added that a third meeting was also held, and that the spokesperson for Imran Khan, Salman Ahmed, was present. He and Salman both expressed a desire to “ease tension” between the party and the establishment.
“We sought to advance toward elections in order for Imran to win with a two-thirds majority. The vote is where Imran Khan gets his actual authority,” Mr. Rokhri insisted, disclosing that suspended party chief Faisal Vawda was attempting to accomplish the same thing.
After the third meeting, it was decided to move forward with the negotiations and schedule a meeting between Imran and “those he is naming today,” according to Mr. Rokhri.
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“I received word from the individuals, those who have been accused, that a meeting will be held. They stated that they trusted me and asked that I keep the points [for negotiation] in front of them. They stated that they did not want Imran to appear or that such things happen in public.”
After that, Mr. Rokhri claimed he was twice invited to Mr. Khan’s home in Islamabad but was unable to meet with him because of “other appointments.” “I refused when they called me a third time.”
The retired major further said that Mr. Khan was being “misled” by some individuals who were “roaming around him” at one point during the interview. He added that the only supporter the former premier had was his sister Aleema Khan. He regretted that the PTI leader never paid attention to her, though.
In addition, he claimed that Mr. Khan had been unfairly convicted in the Toshakhana case and that Gen. Naseer was not responsible for Shahbaz Gill’s abuse while he was being held in custody.