The Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz)-led government will respond to the “abuse” of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan with new development projects for the welfare of the public, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif announced on Sunday.
Flanked by PMLN Vice-President Maryam Nawaz, the prime minister addressed a public gathering in Mansehra during which he criticized the policies of the ousted PTI-led government and sought to remind the public of the infrastructure development during the last tenure of the PMLN. “If you want Peshawar to be developed like Lahore, and the entire province [of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa] like Punjab, then you have to choose between those who want prosperity and development of the country and those who made false promises and took U-turns,” he said, referring to the ousted prime minister.
“KP would have to reject Imran Niazi, who is arrogant, tells lies and takes U-turns,” he stressed, accusing the prime minister said, adding that Imran hoodwinked the people and took inflation to the highest level in his three-and-a-half-year tenure, increasing poverty and unemployment,” he added. “Imran Niazi did not fulfill his promise to build 5 million houses and create 10 million jobs,” he said, referring to a campaign promise of the PTI. On the contrary, he stressed, millions of people had lost their jobs in the last government’s tenure. “Nawaz Sharif developed Pakistan, while Imran Khan damaged the interests of the country,” he claimed. “Nawaz Sharif worked day and night to put Pakistan on the path to progress and prosperity,” he added.
During his speech, the prime minister warned that the accumulated burden of foreign debts on Pakistan was at a level that it would take generations to repay. “Imran Khan’s government took such hefty amount of loans that our [future] generations might not be able to pay them,” he said, although the overall quantum has been added to by several governments, including the former PMLN and PPP ones from 2008-2018.
Addressing last week’s hike in the prices of petroleum products, announced after the reduction of subsidies, Sharif said the incumbent coalition government had no choice but to raise tariffs because the previous regime had “emptied” the national exchequer. Admitting it would cause inflation and further burden the public, he vowed that his team was working to counter its impact.
“If I get a chance, I will turn Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa into Punjab,” he said, referring to the varying degrees of development in each province. He also issued an ultimatum to provincial Chief Minister Mahmood Khan to “immediately” reduce the price of wheat in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa. “I will fight till the end for people’s prosperity,” he added.
Announcing the formation of a medical college, a separate electric supply company, and development projects worth Rs. 1 billion for the Hazara region, the premier said the government would also introduce a free laptop scheme in the next budget for deserving youth.
Discussing the local government polls in Balochistan, which were also held on Sunday, Sharif said they were conducted in a peaceful manner throughout. “The voter turnout was 30%-35%,” he said, adding that this indicated the people of the province had started to exercise their right to vote.
Earlier, PMLN Vice President Maryam Nawaz alleged to the rally’s participants that the PTI chairman had utilized state resources to fund his long march on Islamabad. She lamented that these funds could have been better used to set up schools and colleges in the province. She recalled that the ousted prime minister had used the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa chief minister’s helicopter to travel within the province, and had also utilize government vehicles for his march.
Claiming that the people of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa had “rejected” the long march based on “violence and brutality,” she slammed Khan for promising to hold a sit-in after reaching the federal capital but “running” after his arrival by calling it off.
Berating the PTI chairman for asking youth to lay down their lives for his march, she said he should prove his sincerity to his “cause” by asking his own children to return from London and join him in the anti-government campaign. Maryam claimed that revolutions don’t come through helicopters or parachutes—a reference to PTI leaders who originally belonged to rival parties. “People were more teary-eyed because of Imran’s betrayal than the [tear-gas] shelling,” she added.
The PMLN leader claimed that incumbent Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif was the “actual servant of the people, who had worked day and night for the development of Punjab. Under him, Pakistan’s fate would change.” She said Khan had “wounded” Pakistan, but P.M. Sharif and elder brother Nawaz Sharif would heal it.