Pakistan’s prime minister tells local media he is now focused on long-term reforms for debt-ridden institutions
Prime Minister Imran Khan on Tuesday claimed that if the opposition resigned en masse from Parliament, the government would proceed with by-elections on all the vacant seats.
According to local media, he met a select group of journalists and columnists at Prime Minister’s House in Islamabad and reiterated his claims of the opposition only wanting relief in the corruption cases against them. “I am willing to speak with them on everything except an NRO,” he reiterated, adding that the opposition was merely trying to destabilize the country through its rallies.
“This is a defining moment [for me] because it is a struggle for the rule of law,” he said, claiming his government’s success would become clear at the end of its five-year term.
Khan alleged that “some countries” were backing the opposition’s efforts, adding that there was an attempt to weaken Muslim countries. Emphasizing that civil-military relations remained stable, he claimed the military had supported all the policies outlined in the PTI manifesto. He claimed the military had facilitated his policy of peace in Afghanistan.
Referring to an earlier statement in which he had said intelligence agencies were listening in on all his calls, the prime minister reportedly claimed this was essential so they could adequately protect national leaders.
Khan claimed his focus was now on long-term planning and reform of debt-ridden institutions such as the PIA, Steel Mills and the power sector. He claimed this was a difficult process because of the status quo’s resistance to change. He said Mohmand and Bhasha dams, Lahore’s Ravi Urban Development, and Karachi’s Bundle Islands were among his priorities.
The prime minister admitted that his government’s biggest mistake was delaying securing a bailout package from the International Monetary Fund immediately upon coming into power. He claimed the situation was “fine” now, adding the only difference of opinion with the IMF was on a price hike for electricity, which his government did not want to implement. He also reiterated his claims that sales of cement, automobiles and cars were on an upswing.
To a question, Khan also admitted that most of his team lacked governance experience—a factually dubious assertion, as most of the members of his initial cabinet had served as ministers in previous governments—and had learnt by trial and error. “It’s a different scenario when you see the government from the inside,” he said.
To a question on the Islamabad High Court making it illegal for unelected advisers and special assistants to head government committees, the prime minister reportedly said his government would implement court orders. However, he added, ministries such as power, petroleum, IT, tourism, and agriculture need specialists to effectively run them.
He said that his government planned to hold local government elections immediately after the March Senate polls. He also clarified that the government had no desire to use force against the Pakistan Democratic Movement. He said no permissions would be granted for rallies during the COVID-19 pandemic, but nor would any effort be made to stop such gatherings and instigate chaos.
He said the coronavirus situation was growing “more dangerous” every day and urged the public to adopt preventative measures. He reiterated his belief that Pakistan cannot afford another national lockdown, adding that the only way to curb the spread of the virus was by wearing masks and social distancing. He said it was still too soon to say how damaging the pandemic would ultimately end up proving for Pakistan.
On a question about not attending Parliament sessions, Khan claimed he wanted to go and present his point of view but the opposition wouldn’t even allow him to speak. He also criticized former military ruler Pervez Musharraf for issuing a political amnesty to former prime minister Nawaz Sharif and former president Asif Ali Zardari, claiming this had been a “betrayal” of the country.
The prime minister reportedly said he was under no pressure to recognize Israel, adding that such “pressures do not exist in democracies.”
To a question on Pakistanis being deported from Saudi Arabia, as well as the Indian army chief’s first visit to the Gulf kingdom, Khan claimed both Saudi Arabia and the U.A.E. had economic linkages with India. However, he added, this did not mean they had any differences with Pakistan.