PM plans legal reforms through ordinances

December 04, 2018


PRIME Minister Imran Khan says ‘the possibility of early polls cannot be ruled out’.
PRIME Minister Imran Khan says ‘the possibility of early polls cannot be ruled out’.

• Rejects option of settlement with opposition parties
• Says army backs PTI manifesto
• Says he came to know about rupee devaluation through media

ISLAMABAD: In an unusual move that may spark another controversy, Prime Minister Imran Khan has announced running legislative business through presidential ordinances to overcome a numerical parliamentary challenge.

“Although we have no majority in the Senate to pass legislation smoothly, we will not go for any settlement with the PPP and the PML-N to take their support and will make legislation through ordinances,” the prime minister said in a meeting with TV anchors at PM House on Monday.

Asked how the government would ensure legal reforms without having the support of the opposition, which had a majority in the Senate, PM Khan said legislation would be done through presidential ordinances.

He said entering into a settlement with the opposition meant that corruption cases against their leaders should be closed and he would never go for it.

“Accountability is one of the basic parts of Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf’s (PTI) manifesto. How can I ignore that former rulers have brought the country under the burden of Rs30,000 billion foreign debts and filled their own pockets through money laundering,” he added.

The prime minister said that the law, which would be enacted through ordinance, would facilitate early disposal of cases. Similarly, women and widows would get their rights of inheritance.

Asked how he could give a National Reconciliation Ordinance-like facility to opposition leaders considering that the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) and the Supreme Court (SC) were not under the control of the government, the prime minister said: “The government always has options to make such deals but the present government has no intention to grant any NRO to the opposition leaders.”

Army backing

Prime Minister Khan said he was making all the decisions independently which were fully backed by the military establishment. “There is no decision which I have not taken and the army has not supported,” he claimed.

Responding to a question that who is making the country’s foreign policy, he said the policy was made by the government but with the consent of the military establishment. “It happens not only in Pakistan but in all countries, including the US, where no foreign policy is made without the consent of Pentagon,” he said. He referred to a book in which former US president Barack Obama had admitted that he wanted to withdraw troops from Afghanistan but could not do so because of Pentagon’s disagreement. “When the security of the country or any other security issue is involved, the government has to rely on the feedback and information of the army because on-ground forces know better than us,” he said.

Asked former military dictators Gen Ziaul Haq and Gen Pervez Musharraf had differences with governments of their times, Mr Khan said Chief of the Army Staff Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa unlike Gen Zia and Gen Musharraf fully stood by the decisions of the present government. “The Army is standing behind the PTI’s manifesto and we have no problem with the army,” he added.

Rupee devaluation

Talking about the record rise of the US dollar against the Pakistani rupee in the interbank market, the prime minister said he was totally unaware of the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) move, as he came to know about rupee depreciation through the media.

“I feel bad when the rupee got devalued to the lowest level a day after we have presented our 100-day performance,” he said. “We thought the people will talk about our 100 days performance but devaluation of the rupee sparked a new controversy the next day.”

Mr Khan said although the SBP was an autonomous body, he had asked the SBP authorities that no such decision be taken without taking the government into confidence first. Later at night, Minister of State for Finance Hammad Azhar told a private TV channel that the prime minister did not intend to roll back his commitment to an independent central bank, but only meant that he wanted greater “information sharing” between the bank and the government.

The prime minister said the SBP was compelled to depreciate the rupee in order to preserve the country’s foreign currency accounts, as the government inherited a $19bn trade deficit from the last PML-N government.

Southern Punjab province

Asked if a new province was carved out of Punjab, the PTI would lose its rule in central Punjab as majority of the seats PTI and its allies won were from the southern part of the province, the prime minister said on a lighter note that he could go for early elections. “The possibility of early polls cannot be ruled out. captain [he] can change his strategy any time to achieve the goals,” he added.

Kashmir issue

Talking about the Kashmir conflict, PM Khan said efforts were being made on two different models to settle the issue. “I cannot go in details of these models at this stage but the Kashmir issue can be resolved through a phase-wise solution.”

He said when he had visited India several years ago, former Indian prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee had told him that he and former president Gen Musharraf had reached very close to settle the Kashmir issue but it could not happen. “Therefore, I believe that the issue can be settled if sincere effort is made by the two sides,” he added.

Responding to a question the foreign minister had remarked that PM Khan had bowled India a googly by opening the Kartarpur border, the prime minister said Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi often used such terms but there was no political gain in opening of the border and it was opened solely to facilitate the Sikh pilgrims.

Swati case

Asked about the Joint Investigation Team report that declared federal Minister for Information Technology Azam Swati guilty in a case of illegally occupying state land beside his farmhouse in Islamabad, PM Khan said he had not seen the report so far. He, however, vowed that he would ensure across the board accountability.

The prime minister expressed displeasure on the performance of the National Accountability Bureau.

Published in Dawn, December 4th, 2018