• Rules out any decision against country’s interests
• Accuses judiciary and NAB of protecting those involved in financial wrongdoing
• Warns of major restrictions if people don’t adhere to Covid-19 guidelines
ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan on Sunday sought public support to overcome corruption, inflation, Covid-19 pandemic and increasing obscenity in society and assured the nation that he would not take any decision that will be against the interests of the country, including trade with India and IMF conditions.
“Imran Khan alone cannot tackle these problems and needs public support to overcome them,” the prime minister said in his third public interaction through telethon.
He said the change would not come overnight and the nation would have to wait for seeing progress, economic stability and development in the country. “People have high hopes that Imran Khan will come and change the country; this only happens in fairy tales.”
He said there were two types of revolutions — bloody and through ballot — and the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf came to power through ballot in which changing something was difficult. “Here the judiciary protects a person who looted public money and NAB protects a person who stashed away $60 million national wealth to the Swiss bank,” he added.
When a woman pointed out unprecedented inflation and that he should “now allow people to be worried”, the prime minister said economic conditions were quite encouraging and people should not worried (Ghabrana nahi hai) as the government would soon overcome the monster of price hike.
PM Khan said his government had introduced a mechanism to keep the prices of essential items in check, which had started in Lahore and would soon be expanded to other cities. For the first time, the economy was stable and the rupee gained strength, he said, adding that the price of dollar had affected power generation in the country because costly contracts were signed in the past. The diesel price increase also raised the cost of different things, he added.
The prime minister said the country had to import four million tonnes of wheat in one year alone after the standing crops were damaged by heavy rainfall.
“Mafias are sitting here. There are bookies in sugar trade. For the first time in the country’s history, we are going after them,” he added.
He said the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) had been tasked with investigating the sugar scam that unearthed the elements who were involved in the artificial shortage of sugar by earning huge profits at the cost of consumers.
Responding to a caller, Prime Minister Khan said he needed public support to fight Covid-19 as people had to follow the standard operating procedures (SOPs) and wear mask in public places. He said the third wave of coronavirus was extremely dangerous in comparison with the previous two waves and urged the masses to strictly follow the SOPs.
The prime minister cautioned that the government would be forced to impose major restrictions if people didn’t start adhering to the Covid-19 guidelines. “I have noticed... people are not caring [and] are not taking precautions while going out in public,” he said, warning that such an attitude could have dangerous consequences and lead to spread of the disease.
“We have so far been protecting our people; we are not imposing a lockdown [or] closing our factories. We are only imposing minor restrictions so that this wave doesn’t spread rapidly. But if this spreads, it will have a very negative impact and we will be forced to take steps,” he said, adding that the country could plunge into a severe economic crisis if the government imposed a complete lockdown for a second time.
The premier noted that the most affected segment due to lockdowns were the poor across the world and said that according to an estimate 150 million people had gone below the poverty line in the wake of the closure of businesses and economies.
The prime minister said that as corruption had eaten away the economies of poor countries like Pakistan, society as a cohesive whole should extend full support to make the fight against the menace a success. “Imran Khan cannot fight it alone, the society carries on this fight and the judiciary fights it. The National Accountability Bureau, which is completely independent, can frame cases,” he added.
Mr Khan said corruption was the real issue which had permeated in all poor countries of the world and had even shaken the economies of rich ones. He said the powerful elite embezzled the national wealth by holding on to the powerful offices as happened in Pakistan and then resorted to money laundering as they could not hide such huge amounts in their respective countries.
He said that according to a UN watchdog panel report about 1,000 billion dollars from the poor countries were being laundered to the rich countries or tax havens. The report further pointed out that about 7,000 billion dollars had been stashed away in rich countries, he added.
The prime minister said his government was striving to get the laundered money back. “It is regrettable that in Pakistan, the corrupt elements are warmly welcomed and showered with flower petals.” He said all corrupt elements had gathered on one platform to pull down his government because it was not giving them any NRO (National Reconciliation Ordinance).
In reply to a question by a caller, the prime minister said he needed public support to control rape cases and urged people to discourage European and Indian trends of obscenity. “We have to promote a culture of veil (parda) to avoid temptation,” he added. “Delhi is called a rape capital; similarly, obscenity in Europe has shattered their family system. Therefore, the people in Pakistan should help government overcome obscenity.”
Trade with India
Responding to a question by a caller from Azad Kashmir about a decision by the Economic Coordination Committee regarding import of sugar, cotton and yarn from India that was later turned down by the federal cabinet, the prime minister said: “I give you surety that no normalisation of relations with India can take place unless it revokes its illegal steps.”
The prime minister also ruled out normalisation of trade ties with India unless it reverses its illegal acts of Aug 5, 2019 on Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IIOJK) and restores its status. “We have fought the Kashmiris’ case at all global fora in a way that never happened in the past,” he claimed.
The prime minister said the import of sugar from India had been rejected by the cabinet which decided that no step would be taken for normalisation of ties with the neighbouring country.
When caller asked about the government’s reported plan to bring the State Bank of Pakistan under the control of the International Monetary Fund, the prime minister assured the nation that he would not take any decision that will be against the interests of the country. He, however, said that when the IMF gave loan it always gave on its own conditions.
Mr Khan said that in Punjab alone it was detected that a whopping amount of Rs600bn was circulated in the accounts of sugar bookies. He regretted that despite being an agricultural country, 70 per cent of pulses were being imported and similar was the case of oil imports.
He said the government was bringing about a revolution in the agriculture sector with a mega package to overcome the prices of commodities.
Mr Khan said health cards had brought a revolution, adding that the residents of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Punjab had been provided with universal health coverage and health insurance.
About the issue of mushrooming of illegal housing societies, the prime minister said powerful elements were involved in it and they extracted the hard-earned money from people through deceitful schemes.
He said the inhabitants of katchi abadis (slums) would also get ownership rights as the projects for construction of flats would be initiated on the pattern of Turkish model. It was good news for the residents of informal settlements, he added.
Published in Dawn, April 5th, 2021