Hearing the public’s problems via telephone, Pakistan’s prime minister claims country on path to becoming ‘great nation’
Prime Minister Imran Khan on Monday urged the citizens of Pakistan to be “patient” about the incumbent government’s reforms process, reiterating that it was not possible to fix all the ills of the country in one go.
Answering the public’s questions via telephone on national television, he said that every part of Pakistan has a “special quality” that could be developed for economic benefit. Referring to Balochistan, he said that the province was very large with a comparatively small population, making it difficult to develop. Lamenting that the previous governments had “damaged” the province, he hoped that local body elections would help to address the public’s problems.
“We are working on development, but people must be patient,” he said. To a caller who sought greater development for Gilgit-Baltistan, he said the region could be transformed into a tourist destination with the proper planning. Comparing its scenery to that of Switzerland, he criticized the caller for “not understanding” that the remoteness of the region made it very difficult to industrialize it. “But it is perfectly suited for tourism,” he said, adding that this would be the focus of the PTI government. He also affirmed that the government would work to reduce power outages in the area by developing
He also assured residents of remote areas that the government had decided to extend 3G and 4G mobile phone services to them to improve connectivity.
To another caller who questioned the process of availing loans under the Naya Pakistan Housing Program, Khan said it was intended to allow citizens to build their homes on easy loans. Referring to the U.S. and Europe, he said that “80 percent of people in those countries take loans to buy houses, [as do] 30 percent of people in Malaysia, while only 0.2 percent of people in Pakistan” do so. He said banks had assured him that they would train their staff on how to give housing loans to people without any cash or property to place as bonds.
Responding to a caller from Sahiwal who questioned the government’s coronavirus vaccination strategy, the prime minister said that it would be conducted impartially. He reiterated that the government would vaccinate frontline healthcare workers in the first phase, followed by people aged over 60 and immunocompromised populations, and finally the general public. “Rich and poor will not matter. We will try to cover as many people as possible,” he added.
To another question on inflation, Khan admitted it was causing a “tough time for the people.” He claimed he was “well aware” of the pain being experienced by the people and blamed it on loans taken by previous governments and the depreciation of the rupee undertaken by his government—which he also blamed on the previous government. “Everything becomes expensive when rupee falls,” he said, adding that the situation would improve once the gap between imports and exports had been reduced.
Replying to a question on Islamophobia, especially in non-Muslim majority states, the prime minister said the West viewed “religion differently” and could not understand the “depth of feelings” Muslims had for Islam’s Prophet. Summarizing his own efforts to raise awareness about the issue, he said the only way to tackle it was through a united front.
“Until heads of Muslim countries come together and agree, the issue will not be solved. This is a struggle we have to continuously do and I fully believe we will be successful,” he claimed.
To another question on whether Pakistanis were losing respect for Riyasat-e-Madina due to his government’s inability to properly implement its principles, the prime minister said the public did not properly understand that it was built on rule of law, meritocracy and protection of human rights. Claiming Pakistan was on the “path to greatness,” he said the government was introducing Seerat un Nabi in grades 7-9 to educate students on the life and teachings of Islam’s Prophet.
Claiming the country’s economy had been in “much better state” under Gen. Pervez Musharraf than the PPP or PMLN, he said the military dictator’s biggest error had been in giving a “NRO” [National Reconciliation Ordinance] to “corrupt rulers.” Referring to the Pakistan Democratic Movement and its ongoing campaign to oust the incumbent government, he reiterated his belief that “robbers were gathering and making a union to pressure me into giving them an NRO.”
Stressing that doing this would be “the biggest betrayal with the country,” he said the government was committed to ending malfeasance in all sectors, including the Senate elections. He said that the government’s introduction of a constitutional amendment to seek open ballot in the Upper House polls would “expose” the opposition’s corruption. “This is the only way to end the buying of votes and corruption,” he added.
To various questions, the prime minister also assured the public that the government was working on improving the country’s cricket by promoting it at regional levels. “But this will take some time,” he said. He also said that his government would “effectively” contest polls in Pakistan-administered Kashmir. Khan stressed that his government wanted to improve state-owned enterprises such as Pakistan International Airlines, adding that efforts were underway to revamp them in line with modern standards.