Pakistan’s prime minister reiterates desire for normalization of ties with India but not if it betrays aspirations of residents of Jammu and Kashmir
Prime Minister Imran Khan on Sunday assured Pakistanis that the incumbent government was aware of the problems being faced at the hands of housing societies and land-grabbers, adding that a committee would determine which of these schemes were legitimate and which needed to be shuttered.
Addressing the public via a question and answer session that was broadcast live, he said that a board had been formed to investigate the legality of various housing societies, as well as the conditions for regularizing illegal housing schemes, adding that any that did not fulfill the criteria would be shut down. He said a committee headed by former judge Azmat Saeed Sheikh would categorize housing societies and the government would launch a crackdown against any found “taking people’s money and running away.”
Urging overseas Pakistanis to utilize the Pakistan Citizen Portal for any complaints of land-grabbing, he said: “There will be laws so if anyone makes an illegal society they will be directly [charged] with a criminal offense so they are sent to jail,” he said, adding that the process of digitalizing land records in Punjab, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and Islamabad would be completed by August and would make it much more difficult for land-grabbers to assume control over any property.
To a question on Pakistan’s ties with India, the prime minister reiterated that bilateral relations could not be improved so long as New Delhi continued to commit human rights violations against the residents of India-held Jammu and Kashmir. There is “no doubt” that the benefits of normalizing ties with India would be “immense,” and would improve trade and connectivity, he said.
“I tried, since the first day after coming into power, to have [friendly] relations with India and resolve the issue of Kashmir through dialogue but [considering] the situation right now, if we normalize relations with India at this time, we will be doing a major betrayal with the people of Kashmir,” he said, adding it would be tantamount to “ignoring all their struggle and the more than 100,000 Kashmiris martyred.” It is Pakistan’s duty, he stressed, to raise the issue of Jammu and Kashmir before the global community.
However, he said, dialogue could resume to establish a roadmap to solve the Kashmir issue if India revoked its decision to abrogate the special constitutional status of the disputed region.
Referring to Palestine, the prime minister noted the issue was similar to that of Kashmir. He warned there were only two viable solutions to these crises: either “ethnic cleansing” like that seen in the past, or a viable two-state solution. “I think the kind of awareness and movement which have started in the international media and the world will take the Palestinians towards a two-state solution,” he said.
Too late for Opposition
During the live session, Khan also continued his harangues against the opposition, claiming they were “worried” by the government’s success in boasting a high GDP growth estimate. He alleged the opposition had believed the government would not be able to overcome the economic crisis, adding their efforts to oust the PTI were “doomed,” as they were based on “personal interest” and not genuine concern for the public. “They have banded together not under any ideology or for the country, but simply because they want to blackmail us into taking back the corruption cases against them—which had been in place even before we came into power,” he said.
The prime minister claimed the government was on track to boost tax collection, adding that this would reduce the debt burden and provide more funds to spend on the people.
Scams and reforms
To a question on issues being faced by citizens from the Punjab police, Khan said it was “difficult” to reform existing, entrenched systems, but vowed that the PTI would achieve its promised reforms. Eventually, he asserted, the Punjab police would be praised just as widely as the police of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa.
To another question on water shortages in Sindh, which the provincial government has claimed are linked to the government giving its due share to Punjab, the prime minister said this was a problem across Pakistan. The government is striving to construct 10 new dams to overcome this, he said, adding that additional measures such as a telemetry system would ensure just distribution of water between the provinces.
He also addressed the Rawalpindi Ring Road project, which has been accused of being planned to favor certain politicians with land along its route. The prime minister maintained it was a “good project” that was needed for Rawalpindi and promised that the results of an ongoing probe would be available in two weeks. “Action would be taken on the basis of the probe’s results,” he said.
Khan congratulated Pakistan for achieving record agricultural yield this year, claiming wheat production had increased by 8.1 percent; rice by 13.6 percent; sugarcane by 22 percent; and maize by 7.4 percent. He said the government wanted farmers to benefit from this directly, and was planning on utilizing technology to achieve this. “We will build storage facilities” so farmers are not forced to offload their entire stocks, he added.
He stressed that boosting agricultural production was necessary to control inflation, and summarized several initiatives taken up by the government to support farmers such as the Kisan Card, improved storage and transport facilities, skills development, and new agrarian technology.