–Addressing Pakistani-Americans in Washington, PM says he’ll release corrupt politicians from jail if they returned looted money
–Says will order removal of TVs and air-conditioners from jail cells of Nawaz and Zardari
WASHINGTON DC: Prime Minister Imran Khan has said that his vision for ‘Naya Pakistan’ is merit and equality for all citizens, as he offered to release political leaders jailed on corruption charges if they returned the looted money.
While addressing a large crown at a community event at the Capital One Arena on Sunday night, Imran said that a ‘Naya Pakistan’ was being created in front of people’s eyes.
“People ask ‘Where is Naya Pakistan?’ — it is being created in front of your eyes,” the premier said.
Imran was accompanied by Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, Adviser to the Prime Minister on Finance Dr Abdul Hafeez Shaikh, Adviser to Prime Minister on Commerce Abdul Razak Dawood, and Minister of State for Overseas Pakistanis Zulfi Bukhari.
Addressing the crowd, Prime Minister Imran said that the problem in Pakistan was that when political leaders were asked for answers, they say that political revenge is being taken, and when courts make decisions they say ‘kyun nikala’.
“Today, what you see happening in Pakistan is what Naya Pakistan was about: these people had never been asked for answers before.”
The premier said that there were two main reasons — a system of merit and accountability — due to which democracy had succeeded as a governance system and left monarchy behind.
Citing a sports example, the PM said that the Australian cricket team had dominated the sport as they have a system that brings up talent and relies on merit.
“I have played cricket all around the world. I have seen the most cricketing talent in Pakistan. But [because] there is no system of merit, we can’t bring that talent up.
“This is why we are not dominating the world [in cricket] — because there is no meritocracy.”
PM Imran said that America had succeeded thanks to a system based on meritocracy, through which good leaders replaced bad ones.
He regretted that in Pakistan there was a “type of monarchy” and merit did not come into play in the country. “A society that doesn’t have merit, doesn’t go forward,” he said.
The premier said that the second factor that took democracy forward was leaders being held accountable.
“Democracy is successful when the leadership is answerable.”
Prime Minister Imran said that cases against political leaders in Pakistan were not new.
“All the cases against them are old. We did not [start] any case […] all we have done is make institutions independent.”
“We have seen Pakistan go down before our eyes,” he said, adding that when he was growing up in the country during the 1960s, Pakistan was considered to be the fastest developing country in the subcontinent and Asia.
He said the Pakistani bureaucracy was considered the top one in Asia and people used to come from abroad to study in the country.
“This is the same Pakistan we saw go down.”
PM Imran explained that the form of socialism in place during the 1970s had led to industrial growth in the country stopping and then after 1985, bribery came into politics when the “real damage” took place.
“We saw Pakistan go down before our eyes.”
He said two things — public office holders being held accountable and merit — were required to lift the country up.
“Anyone who is a public office holder should answer to the people.”
While referring to political leaders in the country, the premier said: “They have one purpose, they want to hear three words from me: NRO [National Reconciliation Ordinance].”
He said that now the powerful individuals in Pakistan were being held accountable, which included the seizure of their benami properties.
“Remember this is the time that Pakistan will change, it is changing before you.”
The premier added that a merit-based system was required in the country.
“A system of merit will come when family-based politics end.
“Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) is the first party where no relative or friend of Imran Khan is in any post,” he said, adding that new leaders, such as Minister for Communications and Postal Services Murad Saeed and Federal Minister for Economic Affairs Division Hammad Azhar, would emerge from the party.
“Our country will rise before you. You will see we will fix the system and let the lower segment come up.”
‘WILL REMOVE AC, TV FROM NAWAZ’S CELL’:
The premier said that 10 years ago, the country’s debt was Rs6,000 billion.
“After 10 years, these two raised it to Rs30,000 billion,” referring to former prime minister Nawaz Sharif and former president Asif Ali Zardari.
“Where did the money go? We need to take [back] this money from them. I want to tell them again that you can do what you want.
“Everyone comes together to save democracy, to save their money. Come together, if you want to stage a ‘dharna’, I will give you containers.
“Do what you want, you will have to return the money.”
While referring to Nawaz, PM Imran said that he would remove the former premier’s TV and air conditioner from jail.
“I know that Maryam [Nawaz] bibi will make a lot of noise, but Maryam bibi give back the money, then he can go from jail.”
PM Imran said that he had noticed that when former president Zardari went to jail, he would spend all of his time in the hospital.
“Asif Zardari, [we] will also keep you in jail, there will no TV nor will there be an air conditioner.”
“It is very easy to be released from jail: return the money, we will release you from jail.”
“Until today, the powerful in Pakistan were never questioned. This is the biggest change and this is why our country will rise.”
PM Imran said that the education system in Pakistan did not allow the less privileged to come up.
“There is an education apartheid. Here [in America] people are given opportunities.”
The premier said that for the first time in Pakistan, they were attempting to fix the system of government schools in the country and attempting to introduce one main syllabus so that people have the opportunity to rise up.
“Our country has been left behind because of one reason: corruption,” said the premier.
He said that he had met companies in the United States, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and China for investment and they all said that they don’t come to Pakistan because there is corruption.
“Through a clean government [and] by ending corruption, we will lift this country.”
The prime minister said that the current government’s vision was to turn the country into a welfare state on the pattern of Riyasat-i-Madina.
He said that the principles of Riyasat-i-Madina were compassion, justice, rule of law, and looking after women, children and elderly.
The premier said that he would present the case of the Pakistani people before President Donald Trump.
“I will not let you be embarrassed in front of Donald Trump.”
The premier concluded his address by vowing that he would never let Pakistan bow down before anyone.