PM Imran endorses grievances of Pashtuns, but says agitation will not yield any benefits

Updated April 19, 2019

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Prime Minister Imran Khan addresses a public gathering in Orakzai tribal district on Friday. — DawnNewsTV
Prime Minister Imran Khan addresses a public gathering in Orakzai tribal district on Friday. — DawnNewsTV

Prime Minister Imran Khan on Friday said that the Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement (PTM) rightly speaks about the hardships faced by the tribal areas and the Pashtun people, but the manner in which they are making such demands is "not good for our country".

Addressing a public gathering in the Orakzai tribal district, the premier said PTM advocates for the same things he has been talking about for the last 15 years.

He acknowledged that during the counterterrorism operations in the tribal areas, people had to face difficulties and migrate to other areas and "when there is a war, innocents are killed."

But "how will it benefit Pakistan and the tribal areas [for PTM] to turn people who have been through pain against their army and raise slogans like this?" Imran asked.

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PTM is a rights-based alliance that, besides calling for the de-mining of the former tribal areas and greater freedom of movement in the latter, has insisted on an end to the practices of extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances and unlawful detentions, and for their practitioners to be held to account within a truth and reconciliation framework.

The prime minister said he had vociferously spoken about the "difficult times" experienced by the residents of tribal areas, but "today we have to think how we will move forward."

Stressing that the Pakistan Army was not to blame for the destruction caused in the tribal region, he said "the blame lies with the ruler who on America's instructions sent the Pakistani military to the tribal areas."

He said the biggest challenges were finding ways to improve people's lives and provide them with an education so they can rise in society.

"To only incite people by rubbing salt into their wounds regarding the past oppression and then not presenting any solution [to the issues does not help]," he stressed.

Imran said the solution to the hardships faced by residents of tribal areas was to provide them redressal and compensate them for the damages caused to their houses. He announced that he has directed Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Chief Minister Mahmood Khan to provide financial aid to internally displaced persons to enable them to rebuild their houses and restart their businesses.

He also revealed that the government will take steps to promote tourism in the former tribal areas to create opportunities for locals. He said young people would be given interest-free loans under the 'Rozgaar Scheme' to set up businesses along with skills education.

All families in the tribal areas will be issued health cards, the premier further announced.

Imran once again lashed out at his political rivals from the PPP and PML-N, saying it is because of the debt burden allegedly placed by them on the country that the incumbent government does not have enough funds to "completely revamp" the tribal areas.

'Any minister not beneficial for country will be replaced'

The prime minister advised the KP chief minister and Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar to "keep an eye" on their teams.

"A good captain continuously keeps an eye on his team because he wants to win the match. To do that, he often has to change the batting order," he told them.

He said being the prime minister, he too aims to make his nation win and work for their uplift.

Analogising Thursday's major cabinet reshuffle that saw several top ministers being replaced or losing their portfolios with cricket management, Imran said: "I have changed the batting order and made a couple of changes in my team [and] I will do the same in the future."

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"I want to tell all the ministers: whoever is not beneficial for my country will be replaced with a minister who is beneficial for my country," Imran said.

He said the heads of the state and provinces are answerable to God when the underprivileged sections of society are "unable to eat two meals a day, children don't attend schools, proper treatment is unavailable at government hospitals and if prices of medicines suddenly skyrocket".

"Therefore we should always be ready to replace or change the batting order of a player who is not giving a good performance."