• Rejects rigging in AJK elections
• Says no one to escape punishment in Noor Mukadam murder case

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan on Sunday said the government would give a relief package to inflation-hit 40 per cent population of the country, especially salaried class, through targeted subsidies.

He said people would see a changed and prosperous Pakistan when the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) government would complete its five-year term in 2023.

The prime minister again invited opposition to sit with the government for resolution of national issues, including electoral reforms. He rejected the allegation of rigging in AJK Legislative Assembly elections and said electronic voting machine was the only way to hold free, fair and objection-free polls.

He again vowed that unlike Gen Pervez Musharraf he would not give concessional National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO) to former rulers who had stashed national wealth abroad.

Mr Khan assured the nation that the arrested killer of Noor Mukadam, a girl brutally slain in Islamabad recently, would not escape justice even if he held US nationality.

“We have completed a fresh survey of Ehsaas [social security programme] and got complete information on all classes of people and decided to give a comprehensive relief package to 40pc population through targeted subsidies by December,” the prime minister said while responding to complaints of people he received in a live TV programme, Aap Ka Wazir-i-Azam Aap Kay Saath.

He said under the relief programme, salaried class would be given priority. “I know that people of salaried class are worst hit by inflation.”

Responding to the question of a caller, the prime minister said the government was striving to transform the country on the pattern of Riyasat-i-Madina (state of Madina).

Talking about corruption, he said corruption at the lower level of society did not ruin a country but the one which was committed by rulers.

Prime Minister Khan said before PTI government National Accountability Bureau (NAB) was den of corruption as previous rulers had appointed men of their choice as NAB chairman. “Now NAB is laying its hand on big fish which is being done for the first time in the country,” he added.

The prime minister said Pakistan was the country where living was cheapest in the whole world. He said prices of petrol were increased due to hike in international market.

Free media is blessing

A woman caller told the PM that she was defrauded of Rs6 million by a man over 10 years ago, and complained that police had arrested the suspect and registered a case but made no recovery. The prime minister instructed that her details be taken and assured her that efforts would be made to assist her.

Another caller from a minority community called for ensuring implementation of government job quota for minorities. Mr Khan told her he would instruct the provinces to do so.

Prime Minister Khan said only those rulers who “break the law or believe in the rule of power rather than the rule of law or are corrupt are fearful of free media”.

“A free media [and] freedom of expression is a great blessing for a country,” he said, adding that it was the role of the media to act as a watchdog.

He explained he only disagreed with the media over “fake news and propaganda” and referred to the revelations in the EU DisinfoLab report that uncovered an Indian disinformation network working against Pakistan.

“Journalists from Pakistan are feeding fake Indian accounts that are doing propaganda against the Pakistan Army and the prime minister. I only have a problem then [otherwise] real journalism and criticism is a big blessing for a country.”

The prime minister was then informed about personal problems by two retired soldiers and a farmer. He assured them that help would be provided to them.

Noor murder case

Answering a question by a woman about the grisly murder of Noor Mukadam and what steps the government would take for women’s safety, Prime Minister Khan said he had been following the murder case from the first day and termed it a “horrifying” incident.

Citing details provided to him, the premier said the “tragedy” had occurred over the course of two days in front of the domestic staff of the alleged killer, Zahir Jaffer.

He denied the impression that the suspect would be saved because he belonged to a powerful family. “I want to tell you that no one is being saved in this case. If he thinks he will get away as he is a dual national and has American citizenship, that is not the case,” he said.

The prime minister noted that the case had “shocked everyone”, saying everyone had been pained by it and it had had “a big impact”.

“Noor’s murder is a big tragedy and I want to reassure [the nation] that no one, no matter how powerful they are, will escape full punishment in the case.”

Recalling the alleged temporary kidnapping of Afghan ambassador’s daughter in Islamabad, the premier said he had followed the case “as if she was my own daughter”.

“Afghans are our own people, we consider them brothers so we saw the [incident] in the same manner,” he said, giving credit to the capital police for following “every single thing” in the case and interviewing the suspects after identifying them through CCTV footage.

Vertical cities

Talking about urban and civic issues, the prime minister said a major problem afflicting Pakistani cities was that their master plans had not been made, and those that were made had been “destroyed”.

He gave the example of Islamabad, saying its master plan was repeatedly violated despite it being the only planned city in the country. “No one saw where water would come from and where the trash would go,” he said, adding that this was why he had ordered that masterplans of cities be made.

“This means a city won’t grow beyond a certain extent; instead of that, it will go up,” the premier said. “Dubai has gone vertical and so has New York. If they had started expanding then they would never have been able to provide water, electricity and amenities.”

Referring to the Ravi Riverfront Urban Development Project that the government plans to launch, Mr Khan said a new city would be built to save the waters of River Ravi, which he said had turned into “a dirty nullah”.

“Similarly we had thought of Bundal Island in Karachi but unfortunately the Sindh government is not letting us take up the project and I don’t understand that because all the benefit [of the project] would go to Sindh,” he added.

Talking about recent AJK polls, he said it was ironic that the prime minister of AJK under whose government election took place was crying that rigging was committed in the polls.

Published in Dawn, August 2nd , 2021


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