Dr Mahathir Mohamad today hit out at Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim for linking the charges against his deputy Ahmad Zahid Hamidi with his refusal to comply with Mahathir's request to dissolve Umno, asking why no Cabinet members or Pakatan Harapan (PH) leaders in his government at the time had questioned the move to bring Zahid to court.
In a statement, Mahathir, who returned as prime minister for 22 months after the 14th general election in 2018, said many of his Cabinet members were from PH and PKR, including Anwar's wife, Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, who became his second in command.
"If I abused my power and instructed the prosecution at the time to pressure Zahid, why didn't a single one of the Cabinet ministers or PH leaders, including Anwar, question Zahid being brought to court?" he said.
"Doubts about Zahid's corruption cases only arose after Anwar succeeded in becoming prime minister with Zahid's support."
Zahid, the Umno president, was crucial in committing the support of his 30 Barisan Nasional MPs to Anwar's government in the aftermath of the 15th general election.
He was given a discharge not amounting to acquittal on Sept 4 after deputy public prosecutor Mohd Dusuki Mokhtar informed the judge of the Attorney-General's Chambers' request to discontinue the case.
Anwar denied interfering in the decision, saying it was within the powers of the attorney-general.
He also said that the charges against Zahid were "questionable" and not carried out professionally.
He likewise repeated a claim by Zahid that the charges had been brought against him in 2019 because he refused to fulfil a demand by Mahathir to dissolve Umno.
"When was the charge preferred? During that time, Mahathir was prime minister. When? A week after he called up this president of this nationalist party (Umno), which is a member of my coalition, and told him (Zahid), 'you dissolve your party and join my party'," he said.
Mahathir said it would be "quite funny" if the PH leaders at the time had lacked the courage to speak up, as they had been "vocal and enthusiastic" about the handover of power from him to Anwar.
"Perhaps they forgot; all of them supported the legal process against Zahid (and Najib) because it was in line with the rule of law and proof that the PH government at the time was fighting against corruption," he added, referring to former prime minister Najib Razak, who is currently serving a 12-year jail term for corruption.
Acknowledging that he had told Zahid to dissolve Umno, he said he did so because he was sure that the latter would use the party as "a tool, as material for negotiations, or as a bargaining chip" to avoid being prosecuted for corruption.
"I believe he tried to use Umno to get his cases dropped when Muhyiddin Yassin was prime minister, and when Muhyiddin did not agree, he retracted Umno's support to the point that the government collapsed.
"After that, he tried through Ismail Sabri Yaakob, but Ismail was not brave enough because public opinion was strongly against Zahid. So Ismail was forced to dissolve Parliament and call for a snap election.
"Today, my prediction has proven true. He has used Umno to ensure that Anwar becomes the prime minister, even though during the 15th general election, he urged Umno supporters to reject Anwar and DAP."