• Expresses surprise over reports on Nawaz’s return
• Ceremony held to mark approval of over Rs100bn house loans
ISLAMABAD: Expressing surprise over media reports that self-exiled former prime minister Nawaz Sharif is returning home as his (Nawaz’s) conviction could be withdrawn, Prime Minister Imran Khan said on Friday: “How can a convicted person become prime minister of the country for a fourth time?”
Mr Khan was talking to a group of ruling Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf leaders to discuss political developments in the country.
When contacted, Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry said the prime minister was surprised as to how a convicted man (Nawaz) could return to the country to become prime minister for the fourth time.
Mr Chaudhry said the prime minister also wondered how the Supreme Court, after disqualifying a person (Nawaz), could allow him to contest election.
Interestingly, former National Assembly speaker Sardar Ayaz Sadiq said in a statement on Friday that he was going to London to take Nawaz Sharif back to the country.
The information minister quoted the prime minister as saying Mr Sharif had failed to give money trail of their assets to the courts.
Meanwhile, Minister of State for Information Farrukh Habib said in a tweet that the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) had submitted a challan in a court in the corruption case involving Rs16 billion kept in the accounts operated in the names of certain employees of Ramzan Sugar Mills.
Mr Habib said after submission of the challan by the FIA, PML-N leader Shehbaz Sharif had started hiding behind adjournments.
House building loans
Speaking a ceremony marking the approval of over Rs100bn housing loans by private banks under Mera Pakistan Mera Ghar Scheme, Prime Minister Khan said the government’s scheme of subsidised loans for house construction would not only help the low-income group to own a house but also boost the national economy through enhanced construction activity.
“This is a great moment for Pakistan because we are heading on the path which we should have opted way earlier,” he said.
The prime minister lauded the banks for mending their attitude towards the common man who otherwise used to consider himself an alien in the westernised atmosphere of banks.
The PM said the government was not only extending housing loan facilities to the low-income group but had also introduced single national curriculum to provide quality education to their children.
Citing the success of the Chinese model, he said China had steered its 700 million people out of poverty by uplifting its low-income group. Mr Khan said by adopting that approach, Pakistan — with a 220 million population — should have been a very strong country and powerful economy. “No country with a very low ratio of people with buying power can excel,” he added.
The prime minister said it was pleasing that the banks had approved over a Rs100bn loans for the low-income group and hoped that more people could be attracted if the scheme was properly marketed citing its ease and incentives.
He said as another incentive, the government had introduced a subsidy on the housing loan which he promised to increase with the improvement of economic situation.
Earlier, the prime minister distributed house keys among the beneficiaries of the loan scheme and shields among three private banks which have showed impressive performance during the process.
Finance Adviser Shaukat Tarin said in the past the banks never extended loans to the low-income group but the current volume of Rs260bn loan applications and approval of over Rs100bn loans manifested a remarkable change.
He said if it desired to take the mortgage ratio to 10pc, the country should provide around Rs5.5 trillion loan within 10 years. He said the target of loans equaling 1-1.5pc of GDP a year would lead the country to development.
Chairman of the Naya Pakistan Housing and Development Authority retd Lt Gen Anwar Ali Hyder appreciated the approval and disbursement rate of the housing loans.
He said six months ago, there was no concept of providing housing loans to the low-income group as no one ever paid attention to this segment of the society.
State Bank Governor Raza Baqir told the gathering that loans of Rs109bn had been approved while the banks had so far disbursed Rs32bn as housing loans among the applicants. He said on average, the banks were approving Rs4.2bn loans and disbursing Rs1.7bn a week.
Saarc secretary general
In a meeting with Secretary General of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (Saarc), Esala Ruwan Weerakoon, Prime Minister Khan said Saarc could provide a conducive and beneficial atmosphere to build economic synergies, transforming the quality of life of people in South Asia.
He reaffirmed Pakistan’s commitment to the mutually beneficial goals and objectives embodied in the Saarc Charter.
As the SAARC secretary general hails from Sri Lanka, the prime minister strongly condemned the Sialkot incident and expressed condolence on the death of Priyantha Kumara who was tortured to death by a mob.
He said there was no justification whatsoever for such acts and all necessary steps had been taken to speedily bring the perpetrators of this crime to justice.
He emphasised strengthening cooperation on issues of common interest, including climate change, education, poverty alleviation, energy integration, and health challenges.
He expressed the hope that Pakistan would host Saarc summit when “artificial obstacles” created in its way would be removed.
The secretary general thanked the prime minister for his guidance on Saarc-related issues and assured him that he would make determined efforts to strengthen the collaboration among member states in different fields for the benefit of all South Asian countries.
Hiking trail restored
The prime minister said in a tweet: “Under our vision of promoting Eco tourism the historic Monroe hiking trail has been restored in KP. Under our 10billionTreeTsunami - traversing 50 km of pristine natural forest with two overnight camping sites.”
Published in Dawn, December 25th, 2021