ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan on Thursday indicated that his Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) and the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) might contest the next elections from the same platform.

Addressing the foundation-stone laying ceremony of Hyderabad University at the Prime Minister Office, he went on to praise the two ministers belonging to the MQM.

“Both Khalid Maqbool Siddiqui and Farogh Naseem are the finest members of the federal cabinet due to their conduct and knowledge,” PM Khan said.

Lays foundation stone of Hyderabad University in a ceremony held at Prime Minister Office

It may be recalled that before the 2008 election, Imran Khan, under the All Parties Democratic Movement — an alliance of different parties formed against the Gen Musharraf regime — had suggested that no party in the alliance should have relations with the MQM because of its alleged involvement in militancy.

Similarly, both the PTI and MQM contested the 2018 general elections as arch-rivals in Karachi, with the latter losing many of its seats in the city and the former becoming the main opposition party in the Sindh Assembly.

The prime minister said: “From day one, even when we had differences with MQM, I believed that the ideology of PTI and MQM was similar.”

He said the PTI’s point of view was that militancy in MQM was totally wrong and unacceptable.

In a lighter mood, the prime minister said when both leaders of the MQM became members of the federal cabinet, there was some fear in the ruling party that they would take out their guns if their point of view was not accepted. “But today no one is more sober than them in the cabinet. Farogh Naseem is given respect due to his knowledge and wisdom, while the way Khalid Maqbool conducts himself in cabinet meetings, I pay rich tribute to both of them,” he added.

PM Khan said that the bureaucracy was hiding the state land which the government needed to utilise to overcome the prevailing financial crunch in the country. He said he had asked all federal ministries to provide details of un-utilised state land so that they could be sold and the money so generated could be spent on development activities. “However, the government officials are hiding such land as they believe that the land belongs to them and not the government,” he added.

The prime minister indirectly criticised the last Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz government for spending on infrastructure, instead of education. “Previously roads were inaugurated in the country, but the nations who want to prosper invest in education,” he said, adding that educated nations developed infrastructure by themselves.

Interestingly, the prime minister assured the MQM of the Centre’s support, not the provincial government of Sindh, in the establishment of the university in Hyderabad.

“My brother Khalid Maqbool, I assure you that the federal government will provide all-out support for establishment of the university,” he added.

Mr Khan said he with the help of his friends was also establishing a private university called Al-Qadir University in Sohawa, near Jhelum, where science and Sufism would be taught.

Housing projects

After a series of meetings on Prime Minister’s Naya Pakistan Housing Programme, the government has finally decided to physically start two housing projects in Islamabad and Quetta this month. Prime Minister Khan will perform the groundbreaking of the two projects.

The decision was taken at a meeting chaired by the prime minister to review the progress on housing projects being constructed under the housing programme. The prime minister was informed that under the housing programme, 110,000 units would be constructed in two cities of Balochistan — Quetta and Gwadar — while 19,000 apartments would be built in four different projects in the federal capital.

Export Development Fund

In a separate meeting, PM Khan said economic future of the country was linked with enhancement of exports which so far had remained far below the actual potential. He said that in the past the revenue-centric economic policies with overemphasis on collection of revenues made the industry uncompetitive. The present government has made a paradigm shift in prioritising the competitiveness of industry vis-à-vis revenue collection.

He stated this while chairing the 80th meeting of the Board of Administrators of Export Development Fund (EDF) at the Prime Minister Office.

Published in Dawn, April 5th, 2019

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