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‘We Cannot Destroy Our Economy with Complete Lockdowns’

by Newsweek Pakistan

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In Q&A session with public, P.M. Khan reiterates claims of economic progress being linked to eradication of corruption

Imposing a complete lockdown to curb the spread of the coronavirus is not a solution to the pandemic, Prime Minister Imran Khan said on Sunday, pointing to neighboring India as an example where the economic situation of the impoverished had significantly worsened after such measures had been implemented.

During a nationally telecast live question-and-answer session, he said that Pakistan could not risk damaging its economy by imposing broad lockdowns. “We took the right decision by imposing smart lockdowns,” he said, and urged citizens to strictly adhere to preventative measures such as mask compliance to protect themselves and their livelihoods.

“We cannot destroy our economy by imposing a complete lockdown,” he stressed, adding that mass vaccinations were the way forward. Referring to the Sindh government’s decision to impose a ‘partial’ lockdown this week, he said this was understandable but incorrect. Instead, he said, targeted closures such as that of educational institutions where staff were not fully vaccinated should be pursued.

Decline in athletics

To a question on promotion of sports in Pakistan, Khan regretted that he had unable to focus on the sector during his tenure as prime minister due to “more urgent economic” problems. He resorted to his perpetual fall-guy—previous governments—for “destroying” athletic institutions, claiming far smaller countries that Pakistan had managed to achieve success through innovative training, and the appointment of professionals at the helm of affairs.

He vowed to focus on promoting sports by bringing professionals in leadership roles, adding that this reform would take some time. He also said playgrounds should be established at the union council level to nurture young talent.

High-profile cases

To another question, the prime minister addressed last month’s brutal murder of Noor Mukadam in Islamabad, claiming he had been following the investigation closely. “I must reiterate that no matter how powerful the assailant’s family is, or whether he is a U.S. national, he is not going to be spared if found guilty,” he said.

He also spoke about the alleged abduction of the Afghan ambassador’s daughter while she was shopping in Islamabad, claiming he had taken personal interest in the case. “I commend the police for the job they did in the case,” he said. Last week, during a conversation with representatives of Pak-Afghan Youth Forum, he had said the probe’s findings did not match the statement provided by the victim.

Corruption and stagnation

The prime minister also continued targeting his bete noire of “ruling elites,” reiterating that countries that had “eliminated” corruption had made enormous economic strides. Stressing that “low-level” corruption is not too concerning, he claimed the government’s efforts to counter corruption and money-laundering, and impose the rule of law, was its “biggest jihad.”

He said the laws could not be separate for the powerful and the impoverished. “We want the country to stand on its feet. It should not seek loans or beg for assistance, and should not take part in any external war in return for money,” he said. He also credited his government’s welfare programs, including health cards and shelter homes, as bringing about a “revolution” in the country.

He also said that the Kamyab Pakistan Program would help the poorest segments of society receive technical education to make them self-sufficient.

Inflation

To a question on rampant inflation in Pakistan, Khan sought to deflect by claiming Pakistan had recently been ranked as the cheapest country to live in by

To a question, the prime minister said that according to the latest global report, Pakistan was ranked as the cheapest country to live in and blamed the hike in fuel prices to an international increase in the same. Nonetheless, he said, the government was trying to bring down prices of commodities.

Acknowledging that the salaried class faced difficulties, he said the government had increased the minimum wage to help—however, it is a commonly known fact that the government’s impose wage is rarely reflected in private enterprises where many often work for far-below the set rates. He said that several industries were prospering due to the construction sector boom and urged industrialists to increase wages of their workers.

Tree plantation

Responding to a question, Khan urged every person in Pakistan to plant at least one sapling as part of the government’s Ten-Billion Tree Tsunami project. He claimed the country’s forests had been destroyed because nobody thought of future generations. He said in this regard, he had also ordered master plans for various cities of the country.

Noting that Islamabad was the only “planned city” in Pakistan, he regretted that its master plan had also been frequently violated, adding that once the new plans had been introduce, unplanned expansion of cities would come to a halt.

Electoral reforms

The prime minister once again claimed that the use of electronic voting machines would “ensure transparency,” and end the practice of losing politicians alleging rigging against the victors. He claimed that the opposition had not cooperated with the government’s desire for reforms and hoped that the nine million Pakistanis living abroad would soon have the right to vote without having to return to their home constituencies.

To another question, he blamed the recent bout of loadshedding on a dilapidated transmission network, but then claimed that constructing more dams would fix the power shortages—ostensibly without improving the same transmission networks.

Khan also hoped that PIA would soon be able to resume flight operations to European countries.

To another question, the prime minister claimed he had nothing to free from a free media, as he had not committed any corruption. However, he said, propaganda and fake news fed by enemies of the country and spread by local media was a matter of concern that needed to be curtailed.

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