• Declares under-performing cabinet members will be replaced
• Condemns Israeli atrocities against Palestinians
• Insists talks with India possible if held Kashmir status restored

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan has said he has “not done injustice” to Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) leader Jahangir Khan Tareen, reiterating his resolve not to give any concession to those involved in last year’s sugar scam.

“I have made it clear to Jahangir Tareen that I have not done any injustice to him or to anyone else,” Prime Minister Khan said while responding to a question from a caller during a live TV programme, Apka Wazeer-i-Azam Apke Saath on Tuesday.

“However, I will not give NRO to those who have loo­ted citizens of the country in the sugar scandal,” he said, adding that powerful politicians owned sugar mills and always robbed people. “During our government, sugar barons looted Rs100 billion of the people’s money in the scam,” he regretted.

Mr Khan said Mr Tareen claimed he was a victim of injustice. “I have never done injustice to anyone. When I haven’t done it to any of my opponents, how will I do it to Jahangir Tareen,” he said.

The prime minister bla­m­ed the opposition leaders, including former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, ex-president Asif Ali Zardari and their families, for being involved in the sugar crisis in the past. “Most of the sugar mills in the country are owned by the Sharifs and Zardaris who do not pay taxes,” he said.

“There are two types of thieves: those who steal on a small scale and then there are those, especially office-holders, who steal on a much bigger scale. Nations are destroyed when office-holders start stealing,” he added.

Violence in Jerusalem

Replying to a question about the current violence in Jerusalem, Mr Khan said he condemned the atrocities committed against the Palestinians by the Israeli forces in Al Aqsa Mosque, saying he had asked Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi to “immediately talk” to his counterparts in Turkey and Saudi Arabia.

The prime minister called for joint efforts by all the Muslim nations to highlight the issue at the international level, saying Pakistan was trying to bring Islamic countries together to discuss the situation in Jerusalem and ways to tackle Islamophobia. He also criticised the West for not highlighting the human rights issues in occupied Kashmir.

“When the western media and countries raise human rights issues, it is not because they care about human rights, they use it to push their foreign policy objectives. This is a reality,” he said while answering the call.

India and Kashmir

Mr Khan said Pakistan would never sit with India for talks until the Aug 5, 2019 status of Jammu and Kashmir was restored.

“The West was focused on India because it wants the country to rival China in the region. This is foolish because if India stands against China, it would destroy itself,” he added.

He acknowledged that the western countries were “not standing with the Kashmiris” the way Pakistan wanted them to. But “western newspapers now criticise Hindu extremist ideology,” he said, giving credit to Pakistan for playing a big role in raising awareness of the conditions in the occupied valley.

“Until India does not take back its Aug 5, 2019 steps, Pakistan will not hold any talks with it,” he reiterated.

Ministers can be replaced

When one of the callers asked if he was happy with his ministers, Mr Khan replied: “I have 11 players in my team, and some of them are very good. If [the ministers] are not good, they will be thrown out of the team.”

He said all his cabinet members were not superstars, therefore, if anyone who did not perform well would be replaced.

The prime minister also asked his military secretary to arrange a meeting with a differently-abled caller, who requested for an audience with him.

Covid-19 third wave

PM Khan appealed to the nation to take precautions to contain the spread of the third wave, particularly during Eid holidays. “I request you to follow the standard operating procedures and particularly use face masks. Take care of your elderly so as to avoid lockdown,” he said.

Replying to a caller who said reduction in timings of bazaars had increased rush of people, Mr Khan said the schedule could be reviewed in consultation with the National Command and Control Centre.

He said Pakistan was working on producing its own Covid-19 vaccine and good news was in the offing.

Sindh package ready

Responding to a caller who complained to the prime minister of leaving Karachi at the mercy of the provincial government, Mr Khan said following the 18th Constitutional Amendment, around 57 per cent of the resources were directly going to the provinces.

The federal government, however, was ready to provide assistance to the province, he said, adding that a Sindh package had been prepared.

The prime minister said that for the first time in the country’s history, a government was taking steps for a clean and green environment. He mentioned the plantation of one billion trees in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and launch of the Miyawaki method for urban forestation to save future generations.

Besides, he said 20 new tourist destinations were being prepared to tap the immense potential of Pakistan’s natural beauty.

Published in Dawn, May 12th, 2021

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