‘It takes two to tango’: PM Shehbaz expresses willingness for talks with opposition

Published December 12, 2022
A combination photo of Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and PTI Chairman Imran Khan. — DawnNewsTV
A combination photo of Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and PTI Chairman Imran Khan. — DawnNewsTV

Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif on Monday said he was ready to move forward with the opposition on talks for the country’s sake.

Addressing a press conference in Islamabad with a coterie of federal ministers, the prime minister said Finance Minister Ishaq Dar had met President Arif Alvi with his permission.

“We will move 100 steps forward for the country’s stability. But it takes two to tango. We have to sacrifice when nations face such a situation [as we are in],” he said.

However, PM Shehbaz questioned what talks could be held with “an egoistic and liar person who even defames the army”.

“I want to tell the people that this person is a fraud having nothing to do with the nation’s future,” he said. But at the same time, the premier called for setting aside differences for the country’s progress.

He said the previous government “ridiculed” his idea of a Charter of Economy and misconstrued it as a desire to seek a national reconciliation ordinance-type (NRO) agreement.

The prime minister told the media that the incumbent government inherited a shaken economy and that it had to “beseech” the International Monetary Fund (IMF), which was not ready to trust Pakistan after the previous regime had deviated from its commitments.

He said that by passing the burden of the oil price surge to the masses, the incumbent government sacrificed its politics in the state’s interest as the previous regime had “laid a trap” for the current setup by not raising the prices.

PM Shehbaz said the government had disbursed Rs70 billion among the flood-hit families through the Benazir Income Support Programme and spent billions more through the National Disaster Management Authority to supply food packages, tents, and mosquito nets. Besides, Rs400 million were also given in form of compensation for life losses, he added.

“With the onset of the winter season, a huge challenge is still ahead. Don’t know where the money will come from [to support the reconstruction],” he added.

He said instead of spreading rhetoric about Pakistan becoming another Sri Lanka, Imran should “give an account for the sugar mill and wheat scandals”.

To another question, the prime minister said the PTI chief also showed a lack of gratitude to his “benefactor” ex-army chief General (retd) Qamar Javed Bajwa. He said the new army chief was a “professional soldier with a shining career” and hoped that he would strengthen the institution and serve the country.

Daily Mail story

Regarding the unconditional apology from British publication Daily Mail, PM Shehbaz said it was a “vindication” of the 220m Pakistanis which also thwarted an “anti-state conspiracy hatched by and his cronies”.

“It was an apology … to millions of those mothers and children who were benefiting from the DIFD (Department for International Development) projects to support their food and health,” the prime minister said.

Apprising the media of the allegations levelled by the previous government through the Daily Mail article, he said the onslaught was only meant to defame him, the PML-N and party supremo Nawaz Sharif.

“He (Imran) was so callous to never think that it will not only malign Nawaz or Shehbaz, rather it will hurt Pakistan’s reputation,” he remarked. The newspaper also published its apology in Sunday’s print edition, PM Shehbaz added.

The premier told the media that DFID’s project amount of 600 million pounds was spent transparently and the allegations were also contradicted by the department itself.

“Consequently, the country was mocked and a message was conveyed that Pakistan should not be given any aid or grant,” he added.

PM Shehbaz said despite the passage of three years, former accountability czar Shahzad Akbar had failed to produce documents to substantiate his allegations, which also led to the prime minister’s vindication by the UK’s National Crime Agency.

Toshakhana watch

Meanwhile, PM Shehbaz said that by selling a specially-designed watch inscribed with the Holy Kaaba’s model, gifted by the Saudi crown prince, Imran had committed the “cheapest act”.

He said investigations should be held as to how the former prime minister had “destroyed the national economy and foreign relations and strained ties with brotherly countries”.

Shehbaz also mentioned an article published by the Financial Times accusing the PTI chief of spending donations collected for the Shaukat Khanum Hospital on his politics.

He said that during the PTI government, Imran got even female politicians, like Maryam Nawaz and Faryal Talpur, arrested but contrarily, gave an NRO to his own sister through the Federal Board of Revenue “though she had committed misdeclaration”.

To another query, PM Shehbaz said Nawaz, who had “millions of followers in Pakistan”, would be back in the country “very soon”.

About oil prices, he said the government discussed the matter fortnightly and made its level best not to further burden the people. “It would surely pass on the relief as it found some cushion,” he added.

Imran sounds economic alarm

Meanwhile, Imran sounded the alarm on the economic situation during a press conference in Lahore today.

He warned that the country was nearing default and its exports were falling as well. He lamented that the media was not making the people aware of the situation the country was facing, warning that conditions could further deteriorate.

“I am also addressing institutions because the speed at which this country is going down will also impact all institutions.”

Imran said institutions related to national security should all reflect on where the country stood today.

He once again stressed that free and fair elections were the only solution to the country’s current issues.

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