PTI leader Fawad Chaudhry had labelled the business community as a mafia after they had held a meeting with Chief of Army Staff General Asim Munir. — AFP/File

PTI leader Fawad Chaudhry had labelled the business community as a mafia after they had held a meeting with Chief of Army Staff General Asim Munir. — AFP/File 
  • PTI had accused businessmen of painting gloomy picture of economy during their govt.
  • Regime change allegation has been shifted to business community from US, says businessman.
  • Businessmen say it was PTI that encouraged them to meet COAS .

KARACHI: Business leaders that met Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Asim Munir slammed the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) for labelling them as a “mafia” after discussing the economy with the army chief.

In a meeting with a handful of businessmen earlier this week, General Asim Munir assured them they will jointly steer the country out of problems. He told the businessmen the friendly countries were willing to invest in the sectors of information technology, agriculture, mining and real estate.

However, the PTI expressed its uneasiness over the businessmen meeting the army chief. The party labelled the business community a “mafia” and added them to the list of people who they have accused of being involved in the toppling of the Imran Khan-led government last year.

The party said businessmen had also painted a gloomy picture of the country before the then army chief Gen (retd) Bajwa.

In a tweet on March 7, PTI leader Fawad Chaudhry reacted to the meeting saying, “We know these businessmen well who were involved in the regime change. They only meet to protect the mafia”.

A few businessmen who had spoken to the publication on the condition of anonymity expressed their unhappiness over the PTI’s stance on the meeting.

A businessman said, “What can I say over this weird utterance. The regime change allegation has been shifted to the business community from America”.

Another businessman said, “Army chief’s interference in the economic matters and practice of business community meetings with him was started by Imran Khan himself. Imran Khan called us and assured improvement when the activities of NAB and the economic policies hit the business community. For a guarantee, he asked us to meet the army chief”.

He further claimed that Imran, during his tenure, had told them that the army was the only organised institution in the country and they could seek help from the army chief and the Inter-Services Intelligence (IS) director general if needed.

After that, he said, the then army chief, Gen (retd) Bajwa, used to call them to Rawalpindi, and at other times held meetings with them in Lahore and Karachi to assure them that they would not be harassed in the Imran Khan-led government and the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) would not take action without any reason. Rather, they would get cooperation in their investment.

Gen (retd) Bajwa, he said, back then told them he had the mandate given by the then prime minister Imran to meet and assure them. He further said no such things were observed when the army chief visits Saudi Arabia to seek funds and ask for help from the United Arab Emirates, and at other times, getting an LNG deal signed with Qatar.

Another businessman when asked to comment on the allegation, backed the claim that the practice of businessmen meeting with the army chief started in 2018. And after that, the ISI chief himself struck deals with the power companies. “I am fully aware of them, as I myself own a power company”, he said.

The business person stated that the Military Intelligence DG helped conclude the Reko Diq agreement. A cell was set up in the GHQ to get Pakistan out of the FATF. The cell would often consult the business community. Now when the business community has met Gen Asim Munir, it is being dubbed as mafia.

The businessman further said that the PTI chief himself set up a national development council in 2019 with the army chief added as a member.

When another business person was told that Imran Khan is accusing the business community of being part of the regime change conspiracy as they would often complain to the army chief about the state of the economy, he said, “Economy was in bad shape in the PTI government tenure.”

He said the business community had not advised the MQM and other PTI allies against supporting the government.

“Imran Khan had himself been managing politics through the army. And when the army refused to play its role, Imran Khan’s allies dumped him,” the business person added.

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