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Imran outlines his vision, says change will begin at top

August 20, 2018

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PRIME Minister Imran Khan addressing the nation on Sunday.—White Star
PRIME Minister Imran Khan addressing the nation on Sunday.—White Star

• Pinpoints debt trap as biggest menace
• Refrains from attacks on opponents
• FBR to be reformed

ISLAMABAD: In his first address to the nation a day after assuming the prime minister’s office, Imran Khan on Sunday vowed to transform Pakistan into a true “Islamic welfare state” with the focus of his government on overcoming foreign debt, austerity, reforms in the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) and other institutions, eradication of corruption, retrieving the money stashed abroad and creation of jobs.

The prime minister, who refrained from attacking his opponents much in his 70-minute recorded speech, pledged to bring about significant “change” in people’s lives through economic reforms including investment incentives and improvement in tax system.

Clad in a black waistcoat over white shalwar kameez, a relaxed Mr Khan outlined his government agenda that included plans to bring reforms in civil services, police, courts and in health and education sectors. However, he stressed, the biggest menace that the country was dealing with was the Rs28,000 billion foreign debt, which could be retired only through revolutionary steps including cutting down expenditures, better tax system and bridging trade deficit gap. “The country’s total foreign debt was Rs6,000 billion some 10 years ago. By 2013 it had increased to Rs15,000 billion whereas now in 2018 it has surged to Rs28,000 billion,” he said.

Mr Khan vowed that he would set up a task force to bring back billions of dollars laundered in offshore banks and would extend support to NAB in this regard. He announced that his government would legislate to reward whistleblowers who would highlight corruption in government departments.

The prime minister expressed his desire to meet Chief Justice of Pakistan Mian Saqib Nisar and NAB chairman retired Justice Javed Iqbal to discuss reforms in their respective institutions. He appealed to the CJP to ensure early disposal of cases filed by widows against land-grabbers and other civil suits.

He urged people to pay taxes and assured them that their money would be spent on their welfare.

“In total population of 200 million, only 800,000 pay taxes,” he pointed out.

In his speech, which was televised by the state-run PTV, the prime minister ignored the opposition’s demand for the formation of a parliamentary commission to probe allegations of rigging in the last month’s general elections.

In what appeared to be an indirect reference to politicians facing corruption and money laundering cases, Mr Khan warned that when his government would go after the corrupt, they would make hue and cry and even could take to the streets. “When we will lay our hands on these corrupt mafias sitting everywhere, they will make noises. Even democracy can come under threat. You should support me. Now either the country will survive or these corrupt people,” he declared in categorical terms.

On a number of occasions, the prime minister quoted the examples of his party’s previous government in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, and vowed to introduce the same reforms all over the country. Mr Khan, who used to criticise the Punjab police in his speeches at public meetings, announced that former KP police chief Nasir Durrani would be made an adviser to the Punjab government to improve the police in the country’s largest province.

He said his government would take measures to prevent child abuse cases.

Announcing austerity measures, PM Khan said he would start austerity from himself “as I have decided to live in a three-bed annex of my military secretary and will use only two official vehicles and keep two servants”. He, however, said it was because of the security concerns that he had to keep guards with him as the security agencies had told him that his life was in danger.

“I will save your money and will not carry out any business till the time I am in power,” he declared.

Previously, he said, a prime minister used to have the services of 524 employees and 80 luxurious vehicles, including 33 bulletproof cars valuing over Rs50 million each. “I will invite top businessmen for the auction of these vehicles and the money to be collected from it will be deposited to the national exchequer,” he added.

Mr Khan reiterated that the PM House would be converted into a top class, elite university. Similarly, he said, a special advisory committee of experts would decide about the fate of Governor Houses, Chief Minister Houses and government rest houses in KP and Punjab.

The prime minister reiterated that he would transform the country into a true welfare state like the one established by Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him) in Madina where justice was provided not only to the Muslims but also to non-Muslim minorities.

Announcing to introduce massive reforms in civil services, the prime minister urged the civil servants to “give respect to the common people when they visit government offices”.

Mr Khan also discussed water crisis, lining of canals, malnutrition and stunted growth of children, quality of education at government schools and religious seminaries.

He declared that he would make every effort to expedite the planned merger of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa so that the war-torn tribal areas could be brought on a par with the rest of the country.

“We will try our best to complete the merger of Fata with KP at the earliest so that development activities can be initiated there after local government elections.”

Mr Khan highlighted the need for improving the curriculum of madressahs. Presently, he said, 2.4 million children were getting education at seminaries across the country. He said he wanted to see the students of these institutions become generals, doctors, engineers and judges.

The prime minister also talked about schemes to improve environment and general cleanliness in cities. He said Pakistan had a great potential in the tourism sector. The government would establish four tourist resorts every year, he said, adding that parks, playgrounds and beaches would also be developed.

Announcing that his government would implement the National Action Plan against terrorism, he said that he had decided to keep the interior ministry portfolio with him so that he could keep a check on the Federal Investigation Agency to prevent money-laundering. He especially mentioned Karachi, saying the federal government would support the Sindh government in improving policing and transport system in the city. He said the Rangers could not be deployed permanently in Karachi.

To build five million low-cost houses, the government would launch a scheme which would also generate job opportunities and revive at least 50 industries, he announced.

Terming the water shortage the biggest crisis the country could face in the coming years, he said his party had suggested a number of steps for water conservation but there would be no compromise on the construction of dam.

The prime minister also vowed to restore better relations with neighbouring countries.

Published in Dawn, August 20th, 2018