PM terms meetings with opposition leaders ‘mistake’

Updated 24 Oct 2020

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Prime Minister Imran Khan speaks during an interview on ARY News. — Screengrab: ARY News
Prime Minister Imran Khan speaks during an interview on ARY News. — Screengrab: ARY News

• Says army chief kept him in the loop about such interactions
• Pledges to bring Nawaz back even if he will have to talk to UK premier
• Terms IG House incident ‘comedy’, ‘non-issue’
• Warns to take to streets if his opponents get back to power

KARACHI: Prime Minister Imran Khan on Friday said meeting leaders of protesting opposition parties was ‘a big mistake’ while questioning what has been gained from those meetings, as the latter are using such language against the army that even the enemies do not use.

About the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz supremo, Mr Khan declared that he would get him deported from the UK, even if he would have to talk to Prime Minister Boris Johnson. He said his government was in constant contact with the authorities in the UK so that Nawaz Sharif could be brought back at the earliest.

The prime minister expressed these views during his two-hour-long interview on ARY News channel. He said whether he remained in power or not, he would make sure that leaders of the protesting opposition parties never came back to power.

About recent meetings of the army chief with the PML-Nawaz leaders, Mr Khan said: “This was also our big mistake. Although General Bajwa used to tell me they were meeting. So and so was coming to meet. They will have conversation. I think this was a big mistake. They should not have been met. We should not have met them. What has been gained by meeting [them]?”

He said: “Today the abuses they are hurling, the language they are using against the army, even the enemies do not use such language. So what has been gained?”

“Whosoever was meeting, what did they want [but] NRO. Amnesty for their theft. Either you decide that you will pardon their loot. For me, even if my grave is dug up, till the time I am alive, I will not pardon them. Gen Musharraf did the worst to Pakistan when he gave them NRO under pressure.”

“Whether I am in power or not, these thieves would never get back in power. I will take people to streets if they get back into power,” Mr Khan explained. He remarked either the protesting opposition leaders or Pakistan would survive.

Asked about his opinion about the recently reported abduction of Sindh Inspector General of Police in Karachi, Prime Minister Imran Khan said: “Who was kidnapped?” He then recalled that sometimes PTI leaders got scared of opposition rallies but he told them they should not worry, as it was democratic right of the opposition to stage rallies. Referring to the IG House incident, the PM said: “I believe it is a comedy. When I think about that, I laugh. What is happening? It is unfortunate that all the enemies of Pakistan, including India and Israel, are with them.”

He said: “Nawaz Sharif is greedy. Money is their god. Narendra Modi had stated that Gen Raheel Sharif was a terrorist while praising Sharif. Burkha Dutt said Nawaz as prime minister had met Modi in Khatmandu while keeping the army in dark. India wants that Pakistan’s disintegration into three states. Israel is only scared of Pakistan Army. Israel and India want disintegration of Pakistan. Nawaz Sharif says all other army officers are fine except Gen Bajwa. Similarly, they say, one or two judges are honest but not other judges. They are trying to create rifts within institutions.”

Asked about his team’s performance to build his narrative, Mr Khan said his government could not spend as much money on the media as they had done. Journalists and some media houses used to get ads from the governments in the past. “Kidnapping [of Sindh police chief] was a non-issue, yet media houses were creating hype… I don’t fear free media. Nawaz Sharif mistreated Najam Sethi. Fake news and propaganda damages the government. Fake news is a problem that I face,” he said.

Food prices

About the recent increase in food prices, the prime minister said prices of wheat flour had increased as ill-timed rains had damaged crops. He said that the institution that was supposed to forecast the produce had not been functioning properly. “Now we have asked Suparco to give satellite image so that information technology is used to assess the wheat crops,” he said.

He said he wrote letters to the food departments to assess wheat situation, but Sindh did not gave a clear picture. Later, when Punjab released wheat, Sindh kept it stocks, with the result that Punjab wheat moved to Sindh, he said. This was the reason, he said, he wanted “food security to be centralised”.

The prime minister said prices of ghee and pulses increased due to international prices, because Pakistan imported 60pc pulses and also edible oil. However, he promised that food prices would come down in a week or so.

About sugar prices, Mr Khan said sugar cartel was behind shortage of sugar in the country. It was exported initially due to miscalculation that caused price hike. But the commodity has been imported, and the price would come down soon.

“When people were in pain, they lose patience. If you ask people what is this government performance, they will share their agony,” he said, reminding the people that Riasat-i-Madina was not built in a day. The Muslims faced hardships and wars. There were threats from within and outside, he said. “A country can’t prosper overnight. When you fix it, it will take time.”

About the civil bureaucracy, the Prime Minister said there was a status quo for the past 30 years. “The process for improvement will take time. I appeal to the nation to stand by Imran Khan.” He said PIA operations had become profitable, fiscal deficit balanced and current account deficit being turned positive.

The contracts the past governments had signed had been a burden on his government, he said. The cost of power generation was too high, while even in gas contract with Qatar, they made money. “We are trapped because of these past contracts,” he reasoned.

Published in Dawn, October 24th, 2020