IMF help needed to get out of critical phase: PM

Published October 8, 2018
LAHORE: Prime Minister Imran Khan presiding over a meeting of the Punjab cabinet on Sunday.—Online
LAHORE: Prime Minister Imran Khan presiding over a meeting of the Punjab cabinet on Sunday.—Online

LAHORE: Prime Minister Imran Khan has hinted at approaching the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for “bridging loans” during the critical phase the country is passing through, besides exercising options like seeking help from friendly countries to deposit funds in the State Bank to boost reserves.

The prime minister also made it clear that the government had no option but to increase electricity and gas prices, insisting that the nation would have to bear price-hike during the interim phase that might extend to a year. “The country’s enormous debt will soar further if utilities’ prices are not increased,” he said.

Speaking at a press conference at the Punjab chief minister’s secretariat, Mr Khan said fighting corruption and recovering looted wealth were a long-term solution to the country’s economic woes.

Imran says action against the corrupt will go on regardless of protests

Asserting that he would not spare any corrupt individual or those who had looted national wealth and the stashed money abroad, the prime minister said measures were being taken to bring back looted money. “The corrupt can stage protests, sit-ins and make hue and cry on roads and assemblies’ floors, but they must never think of getting any NRO during the incumbent government’s tenure,” he asserted. “I have promised to the nation that no corrupt will be spared.”

Expressing surprise that “all the corrupt have joined hands” and shouting that “democracy is being derailed”, he said democracy would be strengthened when the corrupt were taken to task.

The prime minister expressed displeasure over the NAB chairman’s performance and said that he (Khan) would have sent some 50 big fish behind bars had the bureau worked under him.

Expressing support to the NAB chairman over expediting corruption and fraud cases, Mr Khan said the PTI government would introduce a “whistle blower act” and a “witness protection act” in a week or so to collect information and lay hands on the corrupt. “A whistle blower identifying corruption will be given 20 per cent of the money recovered on his disclosure,” he said.

Imran Khan said he was shocked to see the evidence of corruption given to him by NAB and the Intelligence Bureau. “I was watching all those protesting the arrest of Shahbaz Sharif and felt that they all would soon land in jail.”

Responding to allegations of victimisation, the prime minister said that he had not instituted any cases against the past rulers, but was only expediting the cases already pending with government agencies.

On the other hand, he said, the previous rulers had instituted 33 FIRs under the anti-terrorism laws against him and he had appeared before the Supreme Court to explain contracts made by him almost four decades ago.

Imran Khan said that he was also appearing in the helicopter use case in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, but never complained about it.

He said an assets recovery unit had been established at the Prime Minister’s Secretariat to recover the looted money laundered abroad. Experts are initially collecting information about Pakistanis’ properties and bank accounts abroad.

He said that some 10,000 suspicious properties had been identified abroad, but only those owners of properties in foreign countries would be investigated who fail to explain source of the funds used.

About $9 billion had been laundered abroad, he added.

Recalling his recent meeting with the British home secretary, he said the nation would soon hear good news about the arrest of the corrupt and recovery of looted money.

“No past ruler ever tried to investigate properties abroad established with ill-gotten money,” he regretted.

The prime minister said the PTI government was making efforts to put its house in order by improving governance, blocking corruption and restructuring state institutions like Pakistan Steel, PIA, Pakistan Railways and Federal Board of Revenue (FBR).

He said the FBR had now sent notices to some 300 influential people living in large luxury houses. He said the agencies concerned had identified some 70 accounts of vendors and students that had received millions of rupees from unknown sources. Such funds were later converted into dollars and laundered abroad, he regretted.

He also lamented that only 70,000 people, in a nation of 220 million, showed an annual income of more than Rs200,000.

In reply to a question, the prime minister said the law enforcement and investigation agencies would perform their duties without any discrimination and corrupt persons would be taken to task regardless of their political affiliation. “The drive against corrupt fails when ruling party men are spared,” he explained his mind.

He said the cabinet members’ performance would be reviewed after 100 days and the low-performing ones would be replaced. “The 100-day plan will set the government’s direction to steer the country out of the quagmire of massive loans. The change will be visible in a year or so,” he added.

During the anti-encroachment drive, the prime minister said, the government had retrieved 4,647 kanals of land in Islamabad worth Rs300 billion and 2,000 acres of land had been recovered in Punjab, including a piece of land from a former minister of the PML-N government.

He said the local government system for Punjab and KP had been finalised and added that it would be shared with the Sindh and Balochistan governments for adoption to ensure that development funds trickled down to the grassroots.

The prime minister again rejected a poor governance tag placed on Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar and asserted that he would eventually come up as a true change in Punjab. “Mr Buzdar will continue serving as chief minister as long as the PTI rules Punjab.”

He said the chief minister had reduced the CM House’s monthly expenditure from Rs5.5 million to Rs0.9 million.

The prime minister earlier held separate meetings with provincial Governor Chaudhry Sarwar, Chief Minister Buzdar and members of his cabinet and discussed with them progress on the PTI government’s 100-day plan, the anti-encroachment drive as well as legislation to implement the proposed local government system.

Published in Dawn, October 8th, 2018

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