• Declares he will quit but won’t give NRO • Links independent foreign policy to loan-free economy • Says the greatest asset of Pakistan is its people

ISLAMABAD: Calling the opposition’s Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) a “union of crooks”, Prime Minister Imran Khan on Saturday stated that the government would in no case grant permission to the opposition parties to hold their public meeting in Lahore, but at the same time declared that it would not stop them from doing so.

The prime minister said that cases would be registered against the opposition leaders and all those who would facilitate them in making arrangements for the public meetings in violation of the standard operating procedures (SOPs) to stop spread of Covid-19.

“We have decided not to give them (the opposition) permission to hold its public meeting. FIRs (first information reports) will be filed against those providing them sound system and chairs,” said the prime minister during an interview to Hum TV.

Mr Khan reiterated that the opposition was putting pressure on him for relief in corruption cases.

“I will quit, but will not give them NRO as I can’t commit treason with the nation,” he said, adding that Gen Pervez Musharraf had committed treason by issuing a National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO) to end corruption cases against the then opposition leaders only to save his rule.

The prime minister said the government would not create any hurdles in the way of the opposition during the public meeting as it did not want them to become revolutionaries “like Che Guevara and Joan of Arc”..

“If they think they can put pressure on me then they are mistaken,” he said.

Mr Khan pointed out that Covid-19 was spreading in Lahore at a fast pace. He said 78 people died from coronavirus on Thursday and 54 on Friday, adding since pandemic cases were on the rise, they could not allow the opposition to hold public meetings.

The premier said PDM should not put people’s lives at risk by holding rallies in violation of SOPs.

Responding to a question, he termed the economic problems as the root cause of all the issues being faced by Pakistan, stating that “no nation can have an independent foreign policy as long as they continue to beg for money”.

“The worst part of my job is to seek money from other countries. I had never ever asked for money even from my father,” he went on saying.

Pakistan, he said, faced serious fiscal deficit, because tax collection was far less than the expenditures of the government.

“We need to tell people to pay their share of taxes and the government has identified around 250 million wealthy individuals having a lavish lifestyle but not paying any tax,” he revealed.

Mr Khan said the government would tax this class and regretted that there were merely 1.5 million registered taxpayers in the country with a population of 220 million.

According to Mr Khan, the second main reason for the country’s economic downfall was declining exports that had reduced the foreign exchange earnings as well as restricted the local economy too.

“The higher we export more money we are going to earn. But in the last five years of the PML-N government, our exports dropped by around five per cent and imports rose by 35pc resulting in a $40bn trade deficit,” he added.

Regarding growth potential, Mr Khan referred to industrialisation, tourism and promotion of agriculture. He said Pakistan offered more scenic sites than Switzerland and Malaysia that had annual earnings of around $80bn and $20bn, respectively, from tourism.

He was of the view that industrialisation under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor and growth in the field of information technology were the future growth engines for Pakistan. “We were sinking in the recent past. Now we are stable and the next move is to achieve the growth targets.”

He talked about his intention to establish a state like that of Madina in the country that will ensure rule of law and justice for all.

“The greatest asset of the country is our people who have never been utilised, because these God-fearing masses have the ability to sacrifice everything for a just cause,” he said, adding, “We will engage them for the growth of the whole country.”

Mr Khan said his government had announced a massive package for Karachi and they were “jointly” working on it as its implementation was mainly the responsibility of the government of Sindh. He, however, said that the Karachi issues would be resolved only when the city would have a permanent local government system. He was of the view that the big cities would have to become “self-sustaining” through their own local government systems as allocations from the Public Sector Development Programme would not resolve the issues on a permanent basis.

He claimed that the government was spending the highest ever amount for the development of Balochistan and more money would be spent after improvement in the country’s economy.

Published in Dawn, December 6th, 2020

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