–Premier says armed forces standing by manifesto of PTI, claims ‘there isn’t a single decision that I haven’t taken on my own’
–Says he came to know about rupee’s devaluation through TV, State Bank will be asked to take govt in loop in future
–Says early elections possible, hints at changing faces in federal cabinet based on ministers’ performance reviews
–Regrets CJP Nisar’s allegation of nepotism in appointment of Zulfi Bukhari as PM’s special assistant
–Vows not to give NRO to any corrupt politician, rules out PAC chairmanship for Shehbaz Sharif
–Throws weight behind Punjab CM, questions concern over provincial chief executive inquiring police officer
Prime Minister Imran Khan has said that the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government is not facing any issues as far as the civil-military relations are concerned, adding that the army has supported all decisions that he has taken till now.
The prime minister said this during a pre-recorded interview with a select group of TV journalists. He spoke on various subjects of national importance, including the state of the economy, civil-military relations, governance issues and Pakistan’s bilateral relations with the US, India and other countries, in the wide-ranging interview broadcast on Monday.
“The armed forces of the country are standing by the manifesto of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI),” said the premier, expressing confidence over cooperation among different state institutions.
“There isn’t a single decision that I haven’t taken on my own, and there’s not a single decision that doesn’t have the support of the army.”
The opening of the Kartarpur Corridor was a significant decision of the government to defuse tensions with India and open new doors of bilateral relations with the neighbouring country, he said.
To a question, he said Army Chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa is standing steadfastly by the government and a meeting had been scheduled between him, Gen Bajwa and Balochistan National Party (BNP-M) president Sardar Akhtar Mengal to address the missing persons’ issue. However, Mengal could not make it to the meeting, he said.
“But for the record, Gen Bajwa has given me full assurance regarding resolving the missing persons’ issue,” Khan said.
— Tehreek-e-Insaf (@InsafPK) December 3, 2018
Commenting on Pakistan’s foreign policy, PM Imran said, “We want to mediate between Iran and Saudi Arabia to end the war in Yemen.”
The PM also revealed that he had received a letter from US President Donald Trump urging Pakistan to bring the Afghan Taliban to the talks table.
“In the letter, Trump has asked Pakistan to play its role in Afghan peace talks which are aimed at catalysing an end to the 17-year invasion of Afghanistan by US troops,” the premier said and reiterated that Pakistan will play its role to end the war in Afghanistan.
He also vowed that the country would not become a part of any outside war.
‘DIDN’T KNOW ABOUT RUPEE DEVALUATION’:
Speaking about the current hike in the value of dollar, PM Imran revealed that the SBP did not ask the government before devaluing the rupee.
“I found out about the dollar hike through TV,” he said.
The rupee suffered a sharp devaluation in the interbank market on Friday, dropping to its lowest value ever against the US dollar at Rs144 before the State Bank intervened to raise its level to Rs136.5-137.5,
“Earlier as well when the price of dollar touched a record-high against the rupee, I was not informed beforehand. The central bank had devalued the currency and it’s an institution which overlooks these matters,” he added.
“Please remember, we are trying to make institutions autonomous,” he said.
“We have made SBP autonomous, they took the decision because they deem it fit,” PM Imran said, but acknowledged that situations such as a sharp drop in the value of the rupee create “uncertainty”.
He said the previous Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) government had left a trade deficit of $19 billion, which increased from a previous deficit of $2.5bn.
“The PML-N govt had spent $7bn to maintain the value of the rupee,” he said.
“I have conveyed a message to the SBP to keep us in the loop so we can give our input,” the prime minister said. “The [rupee] adjustment is a temporary phenomenon. We are facing a crisis in foreign exchange. Our indicators are now in the right direction, we will not face the issue in the future.”
‘EARLY ELECTIONS POSSIBLE’:
Hinting at possible changes in the federal cabinet in the next 10 days, PM Imran, interestingly, said that early elections in the country cannot be ruled out.
The PM said that all ministers have reported their achievements to him and that he will review their performance during the ongoing week. “We might change some ministers,” he cautioned.
The prime minister said the country is currently facing crises on multiple fronts and all institutions are running in losses.
“As per the Singapore model, we will incorporate these institutions into holding companies,” he said. “Our performance in the given scenario is exemplary. You will see stability in the coming days.”
When asked about the issues facing the business community, Khan said Pakistan is lagging behind when it comes to ‘ease of doing business’.
“We are trying to create a [positive] environment. We are establishing an office titled ‘ease of doing business’ to provide a one-window solution to investors and to resolve their issues,” he said. “Though it is a slow process, we are trying our best.”
He said the government will provide incentives to the industry.
He quoted the Chinese ambassador as saying that China is making investment contracts with Pakistan for the first time.
“China created export zones with foreign investment and local labour. We want to replicate the same model.”
‘NO NEPOTISM INVOLVED’:
Speaking about a case of alleged abuse of power against federal minister Azam Swati, PM Imran said he does not interfere in the matters of institutions to protect anyone.
“We will obey the court orders. Azam Swati will resign if found guilty,” he said.
He was also asked about the role allegedly played by Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar in the transfer of former Pakpattan district police officer Rizwan Gondal.
“What is wrong if the chief executive of a province calls a police officer to inquire about the alleged abuse suffered by somebody’s daughter, who happens to be the daughter of Bushra begum, at the hands of the police?” Khan questioned in response.
Imran expressed “regret” over remarks by Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Mian Saqib Nisar in which the top judge pointed to alleged nepotism on the PM’s part in the appointment of Zulfi Bukhari as PM’s Special Assistant on Overseas Pakistanis and Human Resource Development.
He said the nation would have to decide whether “it wants to let corruption prevail”.
The premier cited the example of China in ridding itself of corruption. “China is sailing past the US in economy, they have convicted 400 ministers during the past five years,” he noted.
Khan said the major hurdle in his government’s anti-corruption plans are some “old-minded bureaucrats” who are “going slow [and] creating an impression that the government will not be able to run”.
“We have recovered land worth trillions of rupees,” he said. “Mafias are behind real encroachments. We have asked the authorities not to target poor people, but the mafias.”
“FBR, FIA and the anti-corruption [watchdog] are working under the government. We have signed agreements on data sharing of each others’ citizens with 26 countries.”
‘WILL UNMASK CORRUPTION’:
Sharing an “interesting aspect” of the drive, Khan said the UAE and Saudi Arabia had refused to share the data of Pakistani iqama holders saying it was equivalent to sharing their citizenship information. “Now, you’ll know why iqamas were sought secretly,” he remarked.
“My goal is across-the-board accountability and I’m willing to shake hands with anyone who won’t object to that,” he said.
The prime minister said the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) was an autonomous body and the government had no say in its affairs in any way. “My political opponents have been after us since day one as they fear that their massive corruption will be unmasked,” he said.
PM Imran also warned of stern laws against money laundering. “Big names will soon be revealed, and the opposition can walk away if they cannot support us,” he remarked.
He also stressed that the government will not let the National Assembly Opposition Leader Shehbaz Sharif become the chairman of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC).
“We will not grant any NRO [National Reconciliation Ordinance] to anyone,” PM Imran said. “The country was looted in the past in the name of the Charter of Democracy,” he added.
However, he refrained from responding when asked if Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari is going to jail, saying he wanted to give all ‘thieves’ as little time as possible.
OF U-TURNS & ‘CHICKEN AND EGG ECONOMY’:
In response to a question regarding his recent statement on ‘chicken and egg economy model’, the prime minister said the actual poverty is in rural areas of the country, “that’s why we need to empower rural people. Halal food industry, for instance, should be exploited at its optimum.”
“We are working to introduce a uniform education and health system, which will provide equal opportunities to all,” he remarked, adding that the government will introduce health cards throughout the country, as well as a legal aid service to bring professional legal help within the reach of the masses.
Responding to a question on the formation of a new province in Punjab, the premier maintained that the formation of South Punjab province is a lengthy phase, and will take time.
Imran Khan once again defended his inclination towards reversing his own decisions, saying, “People always blame me for taking U-turns, I have never denied that and I don’t think of it as a bad thing. What’s wrong in changing the strategy to achieve your goals?”
The PM said he decided to travel abroad only when he knew the visit would be beneficial for Pakistan’s economy. “Right now everyone abroad is aware that our economy is destroyed. So, my focus is on fixing that before touring abroad.”
On a question pertaining to the crackdown on Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP), PM Imran said, “We tried our best to hold talks with the TLP leadership and deal with the situation peacefully but to no avail.”
No country in the world would allow anarchy and chaos which followed the acquittal of Aasia Bibi,” he added.
PM Imran also said he intends to turn the PM House into a post-graduate university.