• Says inflation not just Pakistan’s problem
• Rules out holding talks with Shehbaz
• Chastises media, judiciary for ‘protecting mafias’
ISLAMABAD: Expressing confidence that people would never take to the streets against him, especially on the call of the ‘tainted’ opposition, Prime Minister Imran Khan on Sunday warned his opponents that if he was forced out of office, he would become even more dangerous for them.
“If I exit the government, I will pose a greater threat to you. Right now, I am sitting quietly in my office and watching the drama unfold. But if I take to the streets, you will have nowhere to hide,” he said while answering callers’ questions, live on national television.
PM Khan lashed out at the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) leadership, saying that while he was willing to talk to the Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan, or even the disgruntled Baloch, he would never sit down with opposition leader Shehbaz Sharif — even for dialogue on key national issues — because that would be tantamount to compromising over the corruption of the Sharif family.
“The office of the opposition leader has respect, but I do not consider him (Shehbaz Sharif) an opposition leader, rather he is someone who has committed serious crimes against the country,” he said.
During the telecast of the fifth ‘Aap Ka Wazir Azam Aap Ke Sath’, a town-hall style broadcast where the PM takes questions, he also called on former PM Nawaz Sharif to come back to face the cases against him, saying: “I am waiting for you… please come back.”
Ruling out the possibility of any reconciliation with the opposition, he said that he would never give them an NRO — a reference to the National Reconciliation Ordinance promulgated by former military ruler Pervaiz Musharraf — as that would be a massive betrayal.
PM Khan was confident that he and his party would not only complete their current term in office but would also win another full term, adding that the nation stood behind him, as he knew the people better than the opposition did.
“The reason why people came out for me was that I was trying to get back their looted wealth. You are only trying to cover your own [corruption],” he said.
“The people recognise your true face now and whatever you have done with this country over the last 30-35 years. You need to understand that the lava is simmering. Once people take to the streets, they only need to be pointed in your direction, and you’ll see everyone of them running off to hide in London,” he said, addressing the opposition.
In response to a caller’s question, he admitted that inflation was only problem that gave him sleepless nights, but then went on to paint a rosy picture of the country’s economic condition.
Terming it an “emerging economy”, he counted a number of his government’s achievements and asked why society was so despondent.
PM Khan recalled that all economic indicators were showing upward trends and stressed the need for self-reliance in local goods manufacturing and increased tax collection. “The clothes I am wearing are also locally made,” he said, pointing to his outfit during the broadcast.
Insisting that inflation was a global phenomenon that had taken a toll on developed economies like the US and UK as well, he blamed the price hike of commodities on the disruption in the supply chain caused by the pandemic.
He claimed that a global surge in petroleum prices had also contributed to increase in prices of electricity and transport. However, he conceded that the salaried classes were hardest hit by this inflation, but reassured them that professionals and government employees would be given relief once the government met its tax collection targets.
He also chastised the media for not presenting a full picture of what was happening on the economic front.
PM Khan accused journalists of only painting what he called a ‘bleak’ picture of the economy. Terming certain journalists ‘mafias’, he said they were merely trying to advance the agenda of the opposition and never projected the achievements of the government.
He said that while positive criticism was a good thing, he stressed the need to differentiate between propaganda, fake news and reality.
However, the PM noted that under his rule, the country’s GDP had been increased by 5.37 per cent despite the challenge of the pandemic.
He claimed that the construction sector was booming and that salaries for construction workers had shot up due to the high demand for skilled labour.
The prime minister also said that thanks to a bumper crop, people in agricultural communities had earned Rs1,400 billion, while their income had increased by Rs165,000 per head.
Large-scale manufacturing, he said, also witnessed a growth of 10pc, while revenue from tax collection had reached over 6,000 billion rupees.
He pointed out that due to incentives granted to the IT sector, its exports had also surged and record exports worth $31 billion were recorded with remittances soaring to $30 billion.
Role of judiciary
The prime minister called on the judiciary to be “merciful to the people” and not to support “mafia and cartels”.
He said the government was trying to reform the criminal justice system for the first time in the country’s history as different cartels had made a killing in the past through hoarding and profiteering. “Sugar, flour and cement cartels have eaten up over Rs250 billion,” he added.
“I recently called a meeting of eight regulators who informed me that these cartels have obtained 800 stay orders from different courts. An amount of Rs 250 billion is stuck in litigation.”
In addition, he said, according to FBR cases to the tune of Rs 2,500 billion were also lingering due to litigation.
Published in Dawn, January 24th, 2022