Pakistan’s prime minister vows to reduce inflation within a week, bring back Nawaz Sharif from London
The Sindh government should be thanking the center for its interest in developing Bundal Island to attract investment to Pakistan, Prime Minister Imran Khan said on Friday.
“Most of the benefits and profits from the project will go to Sindh,” he told ARY News in a wide-ranging interview. “We think the project will attract at least $40 billion in foreign exchange … which will benefit the entire country,” he said, adding that the Sindh government had earlier granted permission to the federal government to develop Bundal Island “even though we didn’t need any permission for it.”
Stressing that the Bundal Island and Ravi City project in Punjab would both be “modern, green” cities, the prime minister claimed their development would create jobs and result in wealth generation.
To a question on former prime minister and Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) leader Nawaz Sharif—who has been in London since November 2019 after being granted permission to go abroad for medical treatment—the prime minister vowed that the government would soon get him deported from the U.K. “We are not seeking extradition as that is a lengthy process,” he said. “We’re pushing for deportation, which can happen immediately,” he added.
Claiming that Islamabad was in constant contact with authorities in London, Khan said that he would bring Sharif back to serve out his remaining prison sentence “even if I have to go to London myself and talk to [U.K. P.M.] Boris Johnson.”
Reiterating his regret at allowing Sharif to leave the country in the first place, Khan said the former premier had “lied throughout his life.” Alleging that the judiciary had “unfortunately” always supported Sharif in his wrongdoings, he criticized the Lahore High Court for rejecting the government’s condition of a Rs. 7 billion surety bond for the PMLN leader to go abroad.
No more meetings
On reports of meetings between the Army chief and PMLN leaders, the prime minister said that was “our mistake.” He said that Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa had informed him the meetings. “I think this was a big mistake. They should not have been met. We should not have met them. What has been gained by meeting?” he said, adding that the language being used by them during their rallies proved this.
“Today the abuses they are hurling, the language they are using against the Army, even the enemies do not use such language,” he said. “Whosoever was meeting, what did they want [but] NRO. Amnesty for their theft. Either you decide that you will pardon their loot. For me, even if my grave is dug up, I will not pardon them until I’m dead. Gen. Musharraf did the worst to Pakistan when he gave them NRO under pressure,” he said, adding he would protest on the streets against the current opposition if they ever returned to power.
To a question on reports of the Sindh Inspector General of Police being abducted in Karachi, Prime Minister Imran Khan laughed derisively. “Who was kidnapped?” he said and termed it a “comedy” and sought to blame it on India and Israel. “When I think about that, I laugh. What is happening? It is unfortunate that all the enemies of Pakistan, including India and Israel, are with them,” he said, adding that he had told PTI leaders to not be scared of opposition rallies.
“Nawaz Sharif is greedy. Money is their god. Narendra Modi had stated that Gen. Raheel Sharif was a terrorist while praising Sharif. Burkha Dutt said Nawaz as prime minister had met Modi in Khatmandu while keeping the Army in dark. India wants Pakistan’s disintegration into three states. Israel is only scared of Pakistan Army. Israel and India want disintegration of Pakistan. Nawaz Sharif says all other Army officers are fine except Gen. Bajwa. Similarly, they say, one or two judges are honest but not other judges. They are trying to create rifts within institutions,” he said.
To another question on his team’s failure to inform the public of his governance successes, Khan said his government could not spend as much money on the media as was done earlier. He alleged many journalists were still stuck in that old mode of thinking. “Kidnapping [of Sindh IGP] was a non-issue, yet media houses were creating hype… I don’t fear free media. Nawaz Sharif mistreated Najam Sethi. Fake news and propaganda damages the government. Fake news is a problem that I face,” he said.
Addressing rampant inflation in food prices, the prime minister said lentils and ghee were mostly imported and the government could not do anything to stem rising international prices and the impact of the rupee’s depreciation. On the wheat shortage, he said climate change had resulted in ill-timed rains, which had damaged crops. He claimed the institution that was supposed to forecast the produce had not been functioning properly. “Now we have asked SUPARCO to give satellite images so that information technology is used to assess the wheat crops,” he claimed.
Khan also, once again, blamed the Sindh government, claiming they had not released their stocks when directed to do so, terming this a “failure” of the 18th Amendment, as “food security should be centralized.” To a question, he claimed prices would come down within a week.
On sugar prices, Khan accused cartelization for the shortage, but noticeably failed to mention PTI stalwart Jahangir Tareen, whose company has been found to be the biggest beneficiary by a Competition Commission of Pakistan report.
“When people are in pain, they lose patience. If you ask people what is this government’s performance, they will share their agony,” he said, laughing at people who criticize his governance. Reminding that the Riyasat-e-Madina was not built in a day, he said hardships must be suffered for future success. “A country can’t prosper overnight. When you fix it, it will take time. You should support our efforts till then,” he said.
The prime minister also slammed the civil bureaucracy, claiming they were agents of the opposition. He also reiterated that the opposition’s “expensive deals” had brought Pakistan to the brink of bankruptcy and blamed them for the economic crisis.