ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan has said that the 4pc GDP growth rate indicates that the country’s economy is stabilising and made it clear that restoration of trade ties with India will be a betrayal with the people of India-held Kashmir.

Restoring ties at the moment would be tantamount to “ignoring all their struggle and the more than 100,000 Kashmiris martyred. This cannot happen that our trade improves at [the cost of] their blood,” said the prime minister at a live telethon Aapka Wazir-i-Azam Aap kay Saath on Sunday.

He expressed these views while responding to the questions of people.

However, Mr Khan said, Pakistan was ready to sit on the table with India only if the government in Delhi reversed its action of Aug 5, 2019 restoring the status of Kashmir.

Nearly two years ago, India had repealed Article 370 of its constitution, revoking occupied Kashmir’s special autonomy. Pakistan subsequently suspended bilateral trade with India as their relations turned tense after the controversial move of the Modi government.

Hopes Pakistan’s over 4pc projected growth rate will provide jobs, check price hike

Mr Khan said: “It would be a betrayal with the people of Indian Occupied Kashmir, if Pakistan normalise its relations with India without resolution of Kashmir dispute.”

The PM said the Palestine issue was similar to the Kashmir conflict as there were only two end results to the issue: either a type of “ethnic cleansing” similar to that seen in Spain of Muslims and Jews, which he believed couldn’t happen due to the world attention and increasing awareness about the issue, or a two-state solution.

“I think the kind of awareness and movement that has started in the international media and throughout the world will take the Palestinians towards a two-state solution,” he remarked.

Economic indicators

Giving credit to his government for stabilising the crippling economy in his two-and-a-half-year rule, the prime minister said the Rs4,000 billion revenue collection by the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) was historic, as the country had never touched that mark in the past.

“Pakistan has been on the right path with all economic indicators showing positive signs,” he said, adding that the country would witness further progress due to digitization and automation.

Mr Khan also highlighted the need for efficient use of natural resources for agriculture sector development. He claimed farmers got full and timely payment for their produce. The country witnessed record agri-yields this year, as wheat produce increased by 8.1pc, rice by 13.6pc and sugarcane by 22pc, he added.

“This is just the beginning. We will bring technology with upgraded seeds to give further boost to this sector,” he resolved.

Talking about economic issues, the prime minister said major opposition parties knew those issues, but they wanted to get the National Reconciliation Ordinance-like relief from cases for which they tried to create hurdles and blackmail the government.

Mr Khan said the country’s projected growth rate at more than 4pc would spur economic activities, providing job opportunities and reducing price hike. “Economic growth rate has baffled our political opponents who want the government to fail in meeting these economic challenges,” he added.

The prime minister said there were two problems, price hike and unemployment, but when the wheel of economy moved on and growth rate increases, people would get employment, reducing their poverty.

Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly Shehbaz Sharif, meanwhile, tasked the economic advisory council of his party with making strategies to expose government’s “dismal and disastrous” economic performance.

In a statement on Sunday, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz president Shehbaz Sharif called the government’s claim of improving the economy with 4 per cent GDP growth “flawed” and asked the party’s advisory council to review strategies to prevent the passage of “anti-people budget” by the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf.

Ring road scam

Asked about the recent Rawalpindi Ring Road scam, the prime minister said an authority/board had been formed to investigate the legality of housing societies, and the conditions for regularising illegal housing schemes, while those which did not fulfill them would be closed.

Terming the RRR was a ‘good project’, Mr Khan said it was badly needed to turn Rawalpindi into a new business district.

About the scam, he said: “A powerful team is working on its probe in the anti-corruption department and its result would come out in two weeks and then action would be taken on its basis.”

The prime minister also received many questions regarding issues faced by citizens at the hands of housing societies or their properties being taken over by land-grabbers.

Sindh water issue

In response to yet another query, Mr Khan regretted that water reservoirs should have been constructed some 50 years back and said the government would build 10 dams to overcome the looming threat of water scarcity and global warming.

Along with the dams, a telemetry system would be made fully functional to ensure just water distribution among the provinces, he explained.

Distribution of water in the provinces was also a matter of grave concern, he said, admitting that water did not reach weak (tail-enders) people due to theft. The government was mulling over a system to ensure water supply to tail end, he announced.

He then said it was Sindh government’s responsibility to ensure water supply to the tail end and protect interests of weak growers.

Responding to another question, Mr Khan said: “A democratic leader comes through the process of struggle.” The opposition parties could not succeed because of their vested motives instead of public-centered objectives, he said. They wanted to blackmail the government on the basis of corruption cases, Mr Khan reiterated, reminding the viewers that they had been ruling the country for the past 30 years.

Health insurance

About health cards facility, the prime minister said the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government was providing free treatment facility of Rs1 million to each family in the province whereas all residents of Punjab, too, would get this facility by the year end.

Health cards, he said, was a complete health system. The private sector would be encouraged to come forward in setting up health facilities.

In the upcoming budget, they would get facility of importing duty-free equipment. They would be offered government-owned lands at affordable prices to establish health facilities, he added.

In reply to a question, the prime minister said reforming an institution that had been corrupted was difficult than establishing a new one. Citing the example of Punjab police reforms, the prime minister said former IG Punjab late Abbas had furnished a report in 1993 indicating that about 25,000 inductions into police were made after taking bribes. Some among them who were recruited had been hardened criminals, he quoted the report before reiterating that two families in Pakistan ruled the country and plundered it.

He said it had always been a corrupt leadership that ravaged morality of a nation and destroyed a country. “Wars do not destroy countries but it was the lack of morality that damages a nation,” he added.

Published in Dawn, May 31st, 2021

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