–Imran Khan assures civil servants he will protect them from undue political pressure
ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister (PM) Imran Khan on Friday urged the bureaucracy to support the government through a “down cycle” time and help implement the government’s “out-of-the-box” policies.
He also said that the country’s debt currently stands at Rs30 trillion.
“We do not have money to run the country,” he revealed.
“Majority of the population is young and looking for jobs; and the loans we took, instead of creating wealth so that we could repay them, have created projects that are running losses,” the PM added.
“Institutions were destroyed for misappropriation of funds,” the PM stressed.
He also said, “Accountability is our cornerstone and without it, we cannot progress. Corruption is our biggest issue. It isn’t just the looted money that is a problem, but the destruction of institutions in the process that is a great issue. If Imran Khan wants to loot money, he will have to ruin the National Accountability Bureau and post his men in [senior positions] everywhere. Otherwise, I’ll get caught. If there is transparency in the west, it isn’t because they are more honest: it is because their institutions are strong and they are afraid of getting caught.”
Speaking about out-of-school children, malnourished children, high mortality of women in labour, and infant deaths, PM Khan said, “I’m surprised that there hasn’t been outrage over this before.”
PM Khan vowed, “A system working on merit is unmatched, I will free bureaucracy from political intervention. Quick postings and transfers are the most disruptive for governments.”
Commenting on how civil service employees functioned before, he said, “I want our bureaucracy to be at the same level as it was [in the 60s],” he said. Giving the example of his party’s reform of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s (KP) police force, he said it was done because it was “isolated from political pressure. We didn’t allow any interference. It was very difficult because our political class is used to this. We bore the pressure, there was a lot of pressure from our MPs. They would tell us ‘We can’t win the election this way.”
“We trained them, did the selection on the basis of merit. And they are now a model police force that we hope to replicate in Punjab, Sindh and Balochistan. We want our bureaucracy to be the same way ─ promoting people on the basis of merit, isolated from political pressure. When your performance is built on merit, you rise to the top on your own,” he added.
Shedding light on the salary structure of the bureaucracy, the prime minister said in the past, bureaucrats were compensated well and they had no temptation to steal or be corrupt.
Wooing the civil servants, the PM said, “Accountability is important for the country. I received some complaints about the bureaucracy and I spoke to the chairman NAB. I said: ‘If you do investigate any bureaucrat, do not humiliate him, do it subtly’, If the bureaucrat ‘takes chances’ and doesn’t do the work, however many policies we make ─ we’re taking risks and thinking out-of-the-box here, we won’t be successful.”
The PM vowed to improve the structure of governance within two years.
“Investors don’t come to Pakistan owing to governance,” he explained.
“In 1935, I was reading that a commissioner with his salary could buy 70 tolas of gold. My father, who was a government engineer in the 1970s, could buy a car with one month’s salary. Because bureaucrats had good remuneration, there was no temptation. The living wage is not enough for you to survive on your salaries,” the PM explained.
Assuring the bureaucracy, PM Khan said, “People ‘take chances’, they make mistakes. I’ve made a lot of mistakes myself. It isn’t a bad thing but you must differentiate between that and stealing money. I give you my assurance that if you have not committed any mistakes, I will stand with you and ensure that there is no undue pressure on you. Whatever your political affiliation, whether you like Imran Khan and PTI or not, this doesn’t concern me. I am only concerned with your performance. If you perform for my country, we will stand with you and help you.”
He explained, “If you look at history, nations make it through challenges when the people and the government become one. The army is also more effective when the nation is behind it.”
“Overseas Pakistanis ─ you can’t imagine how much money they have ─ that money doesn’t come here because of a lack of faith in governance. We will have so much money for the salaried class that you will be able to give your children quality private education,” he said.
He stressed, “If we improve the structure of governance then the nation will progress.”
PM Khan promised, “Will increase the pay-scale of salaried employees after two years.”
“There is nothing to worry about. Bear with some difficult times, they won’t last long,” he added.
“Maybe God has created this crisis because he wants us to change. We will change when we start thinking, before spending a single rupee, of the children who are out of school,” the prime minister said. Look at Singapore: they have exports of $303 billion but we have exports of $20bn. They have a knowledge economy. We have so many universities here that feature in the top 500 in the world,” he stressed.
While addressing civil servants, the PM said, “The country cannot be saved if there is no accountability.”
Advising the bureaucracy, he said, “We as leaders need to understand and ask ourselves; this money that I am spending on myself, can I spend it on the people of Pakistan? I ask this of all our leadership and our executive committee here. And I hope that you, the executive arm of this country, whatever policies we make [will help us implement them]. Unless you implement them, we cannot be successful.”
“Third world countries are poor because of corruption,” he explained.
“We will not progress until we change ourselves. Everyone from the public to politicians and bureaucrats must change themselves,” PM Khan asserted.
He also said, “Nothing is impossible in this world.”
“We are paying Rs6 billion in interest on loans every day,” he shared.