Prime minister claims government is developing legislation to improve police response, conviction rates of rape cases
Prime Minister Imran Khan on Wednesday once again slammed the opposition for refusing to support the government on legislation he claims is required to prevent Pakistan from being blacklisted by the Financial Action Task Force.
Addressing a joint sitting of Parliament convened to pass bills that had been rejected by the Senate, the prime minister claimed that the opposition’s behavior had made it clear to him that their interests were “at odds with that of Pakistan.”
Khan’s address was delivered solely to treasury members, as the opposition had walked out of the session after their leaders were not allowed to speak.
“Our government inherited the problem of the FATF’s grey list,” stressed Khan, saying a potential blacklisting would be disastrous for Pakistan, as it would mean economic sanctions.
“A country already facing depletion in foreign exchange reserves will see pressure on its currency. The fallen rupee will see a rise in prices on imports, including oil and then input costs such as electricity, petrol, diesel and transport will rise—this all leads to a rise in poverty,” he said, though did not make any mention of the devaluation of the rupee that has occurred since the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf has come into power.
Citing the government’s success is overcoming the COVID-19 pandemic, Khan claimed he had expected the opposition to “thank him” for it. “But when I saw the opposition’s attitude, the way they approached the FATF legislation, whatever my views had always been about them proved true,” he claimed.
“Not only did they not thank us, but I was likened to Modi and his lockdown … Parliament was full of criticism. They should have praised us a little at least,” he lamented, as he reiterated his claims that the opposition’s sole goal was to “blackmail” the government.
Their behavior “made it evident that their interests and Pakistan’s interests are opposed,” he said, adding that their demands for changes to 34 of the 38 provisions of the accountability law were akin to “burying NAB [National Accountability Bureau].”
Commenting on the money-laundering bill, the prime minister said it sought to penalize the process of sending illegally obtained funds abroad. He claimed that Pakistan was suffering money laundering of $10 billion annually, adding if this were stopped the country would not have to seek out any loans.
Addressing the absent opposition, he said the government was ready to compromise on anything in favor of Pakistan “but we will never compromise on corruption.”
He also criticized the Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) and Pakistan Peoples Party for the external debts inherited by the PTI and sought to justify the record borrowings in the last two years. “Half of the amount collected by us through taxes went in debt servicing and Rs. 2,600 billion of the Rs. 4,000 billion revenue generated in the second year would be spent to pay loan installments,” he added.
At the start of his speech, Khan spoke out about the Lahore motorway gang-rape, pledging to introduce legislation to reduce such crimes. “We are developing legislation that not only protects women but also children whose lives are ruined,” he said, adding that it “destroyed” lives and was especially brutal in Pakistani culture because it leaves lifelong trauma.
He said the government was planning a three-tiered approach to the legislation. “First, we will have registration. Sex offenders everywhere are registered. They are usually repeat offenders,” he said, noting the primary accused of the motorway gang-rape had been arrested for a previous gang-rape as well.
The prime minister also lamented that so many rape cases go unreported, adding that the government wanted to ensure that victims would not have to face their assailants in court and was trying to change the laws to focus less on witness testimonies.
He said that a bill to address the issue of rape would be presented in Parliament soon. “It will not only focus on exemplary punishment, but also conviction, to begin with, which is not easy. The kind of evidence required is very difficult to put forward,” he added.