In televised interview, Pakistan’s premier says he made a ‘mistake’ in allowing PMLN leader Nawaz Sharif to leave the country for medical treatment
Prime Minister Imran Khan on Thursday alleged that the opposition would be at fault if Pakistan were placed on the Financial Action Task Force (FATF)’s blacklist, resulting in sanctions that would cripple the country’s economy.
“The economic destruction will be exactly as India wants,” he told ARY News journalist Arshad Sharif during a one-on-one interview. “India wants to put us in the FATF blacklist and defeating the legislation on it would be akin to supporting their cause,” he alleged, reiterating his claims that the opposition was not acting in the national interest.
“We are going to convene a joint session of Parliament next week, and if the opposition once again joins hands to save the corrupt within their ranks, it will be overt enmity with the country,” he warned, in a naked attempt to brand opposition lawmakers ‘enemies’ of Pakistan.
Pakistani politicians—and especially those aligned with the incumbent Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf—have a habit of branding their opponents “traitors” if they do not support their legislations. The opposition had repeatedly stated that it is ready to support the FATF bills if the government removes clauses that would allow security agencies to detain suspects without any formal charges for months. Pakistan Peoples Party leader Sherry Rehman has claimed that it is impossible for the FATF to demand such unconstitutional arrests, as none of its member states have the same laws.
During his interview, the prime minister said that if Pakistan were blacklisted, it would have “horrific” consequences for the country’s economy, adding it would bar the country from seeking the aid of international financial institutions and banks, devalue the currency, and provoke price hikes beyond those already being faced by the public.
Khan also reiterated his government’s claims that the opposition was “blackmailing” the government over passage of FATF laws and, once again, said he would not grant any concessions to the “corrupt” in the form of an NRO [National Reconciliation Ordinance]. “No matter what the opposition does, under no circumstances will I ever give them an NRO,” he said, adding that this would compromise the PTI’s manifesto.
To questions on Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) chief Nawaz Sharif, Khan said he regretted allowing the former prime minister to leave the country, terming it a “mistake.” Sharif has been convalescing in London since November last year, when the government removed his name from the Exit Control List to allow him to seek medical treatment abroad.
“Nawaz Sharif was ill here, but when he left the country he began playing politics,” the prime minister claimed. “We were told that Nawaz Sharif might not even reach London,” he said, stressing this was the only reason he had been allowed to leave.
Khan also hinted, as have many of his cabinet members, that the government was pressured into allowing Sharif to leave, including by the judiciary which had declared that the government would be held responsible if anything happened to the former prime minister while he was in government custody.
“Now we feel embarrassed. Now he [Nawaz] has started doing politics there as well and, when you see him, it seems like there is nothing [wrong] with him,” he said, adding that a “foreign royal” had also asked Islamabad to let Sharif leave. He, however, insisted the request from the unnamed monarch was “not an issue,” claiming it had been delivered merely as a suggestion and the government would not have allowed it if medical reports did not suggest his life was in real danger.
To a question on whether Khan would order an inquiry to confirm if the government had been provided with fake medical reports—as alleged by Science and Technology Minister Fawad Chaudhry—the prime minister said the reports had been verified by both Punjab Health Minister Dr. Yasmin Rashid, and Dr. Faisal, who is now the Special Assistant on Health.
On questions about the National Accountability Bureau, Khan termed the case against Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar as ‘frivolous,’ and reiterated his claim that most of the pending cases against the opposition had been registered “during their own tenures.” Admitting a need for judicial reform, he lamented that the country had suffered because “there have always been two laws, one for the powerful and one for the weak.”