Pakistan’s prime minister reiterates claims of opposition trying to ‘create rifts’ with armed forces
When politicians from impoverished areas are appointed to positions of power, their friends and relatives expect them to provide them jobs and this is not corruption, Prime Minister Imran Khan said on Thursday.
During an interview with private broadcaster GNN, he dismissed a question on the alleged nepotism of Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar, saying this practice could not be ended overnight. Comparing this to the tenure of former Punjab chief minister Shahbaz Sharif, he claimed the PMLN leader had committed corruption of billions of rupees and Buzdar’s posting of his favored people to government jobs was “not corruption.” He added that he was “personally” overseeing all major projects in Punjab.
Transparency International claims corruption can “include behaviors like politicians misusing public money or granting public jobs or contracts to their sponsors, friends and families.”
Defending Buzdar further, the prime minister claimed he belonged to one of the poorest districts of Punjab in Dera Ghazi Khan. “This is why I wanted him to be the chief minister. So he would, at the least, know how the poor live,” he added of the politician who the Election Commission of Pakistan has said owns assets worth Rs. 84 million.
The prime minister, who came into power on promises of eradicating corruption from Pakistan, went on to say the practice was so entrenched in Pakistan that “such little corruptions” must be tolerated. He claimed that targeting black money had tanked the country’s economy, and increased unemployment in the country. “Transitions are slow,” he said, claiming Buzdar would “improve” over time.
To another question, the prime minister said he had “personally” sought the dismissal of Punjab Inspector General of Police Shoaib Dastgir because he had not acted against an alleged land mafia that was harassing his brother-in-law. He claimed this was not a misuse of authority because “if a P.M.’s brother-in-law cannot be helped by the police then how can a common man receive justice?”
He claimed Lahore Capital City Police Umar Sheikh was appointed to the post because he had “immediately” arrested the land mafia.
Claiming he had no knowledge of the ISI/Rangers officials who had acted “overzealously” to allegedly abduct the Sindh Inspector General of Police and pressure him into issuing arrest orders for PMLN leader Capt. (retd.) Mohammad Safdar, Khan said this had actually helped the opposition’s narrative.
“Such false cases actually help them [opposition] escape more serious cases that they are charged with,” he said. “I would not have done this.”
On inflation, the prime minister reiterated his claims that the wheat and sugar crises had been a result of climate change because rains had fallen at the wrong times. “The provinces provide us information about wheat crops [under the 18th Amendment],” he said, saying this had resulted in exports when stocks were running low. He also reiterated his claims that the Sindh government’s delay in releasing its stocks had exacerbated the shortage and boosted inflation.
Khan claimed that this “mistake” would not be repeated again and inflation would be brought under control.
Urging people to not leave their homes without face masks amidst the second wave of the novel coronavirus, the prime minister said the government had decided that it would not take any steps that would impact industry. “We will tell people to socially distance, avoid public gatherings but we will not close our factories or any businesses that can lead to unemployment,” he said, suggesting that the country would not impose another lockdown regardless of the extend of the pandemic.
Khan said the opposition should “keep their mouths shut” over the issues of Kashmir and the economy. He repeated claims that Nawaz Sharif had instructed the Foreign Office to not talk about India’s human rights abuses, claiming this proved the PMLN leader’s ineffective response.
Earlier, the prime minister reiterated his claims that PMLN’s Nawaz Sharif was trying to create rifts in the armed forces by encouraging Army personnel to “rebel against” the military leadership through speeches in rallies of the united opposition’s Pakistan Democratic Movement.
“When they say that the [military leadership] is bad and the rest of the Army is good; is Army a democratic party that would move a no-confidence motion? You [Nawaz] are telling the Army to launch a coup, to rebel. Can there be bigger treason?” he said. “A person who is sitting outside in a Mayfair luxury flat bought with stolen money is telling the Army to rebel. He is also trying to drive a wedge in the judiciary by taking the name of one judge saying he is good while another, who was a chief justice and gave the Panama judgment against him, was a bad judge,” he added.
He also claimed that both Sharif and his daughter, Maryam, had stayed silent for over a year because they were trying to secure amnesty from the government through backdoor channels. “After the FATF legislation, they realized that they would not be given a way out and they started attacking me. Now they have started to attack the Army and judiciary,” he claimed.
To a question on whether he would file a treason case against Sharif in court on the basis of his information, Khan said information obtained through [spy] agencies could not be made public in courts. “Treason cases are hard to prove,” he added.
Claiming former foreign minister Husain Haqqani is running Sharif’s communication strategy, Khan said this was an advancement of India’s narrative. “India is saying the same things,” he said, claiming Delhi wanted to break Pakistan into three pieces. “Why is he [Nawaz] so popular in India today?” he asked, adding that “Nawaz Sharif suits India; Imran Khan doesn’t.”
The prime minister also reiterated his stance of not letting the opposition escape accountability—“even if I’m no longer in power.”
“They want to make money and also want no one to hold them accountable for it,” he said. “All cases [of corruption] have been made by these two parties against themselves. Nawaz Sharif put Asif Zardari in jail,” he said, adding that he had no “personal enmity” with any of the opposition leaders. “They should plea bargain. Give us back the [looted] money and they’ll be allowed to go free without any more issues from us.”