ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan on Wednesday reiterated his government’s policy of zero tolerance against corruption and corrupt practices, promising that all crooked elements, who had done injustice to the country with their misdeeds and sent it into the debt trap, should not expect any legislation like the defunct National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO).
The prime minister, in his televised address to the nation, criticised political opponents for spreading disinformation among the masses, saying instead of feeling ashamed of what they had done with the country during the last decade, they were now clamouring to save democracy by forming an alliance.
“They just want an NRO from us,” he said, adding, “I want to give them a message: ‘open your ears and hear this: you can come out on the streets. We will give you containers and give you food. You can do whatever you want in the assemblies… [But] no one will get an NRO’.”
Beginning his address with the “good news” about the financial package the government has secured from Saudi Arabia, the prime minister said: “We were trying for many days to get rid of this burden placed on us of the debt. We had to pay back our debts otherwise we would have been faced with default..
“We have got an amazing package from Saudi Arabia… which has taken off the burden.”
He said had the government approached the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for a bailout directly, it would have to borrow more money that would result in an increased impact on the poor segments of society.
“So our efforts were geared towards getting loans from friendly countries,” he said, adding that now even if the government goes to the IMF, it won’t need as big a package from the lender.
The premier said his government is in talks with two more countries, “and we expect a similar package from them”. If that is secured, he said, the burden of the loans on the salaried class will be minimal.
The prime minister, whose address came a day after his visit to Saudi Arabia, also announced that Pakistan is trying to play the role of a mediator in the Yemen war involving the Kingdom.
“We are now trying our best to the play the role of a mediator in ending the [Yemen] war,” he said, adding that Pakistan will try to play to its role in ending conflicts in the region and “bring all Muslim countries together”.
The prime minister then lashed out at the previous governments for raising Pakistan’s debt from Rs6 trillion to Rs30 trillion in the last 10 years alone.
In a reference to the PPP and the PML-N, he said the opposition parties that are accusing his government of ‘incompetence’ are doing so because they fear that “their corruption will be unearthed when we do an audit of the Rs30 trillion”.
He said the PTI government hasn’t even begun implementing its policies as yet, but is busy “cleaning up the economic mess” of the last 10 years left by the previous governments.
“No corrupt will be spared as I had promised to the people not to let them walk free,” he added.
The premier said the country has no future until and unless corruption is rooted out.
“The fake bank accounts… where is all this money coming from? The money is being stolen [from the nation].
“The country’s leaders then have to go and ask for loans abroad… because dollars are laundered out of the country.”
He said the entire burden of loans taken by corrupt officials falls on the nation. Taxes are imposed and prices are raised in order for the country to be able to pay back the loans.
“This is the cycle that is functioning in Pakistan… a small class is growing wealthier, while the masses are becoming poorer.”
In order to break this cycle, the prime minister said, the government will ensure accountability is carried out “no matter what anyone does”.
He said the cases the opposition parties are accusing the PTI government of backing were all started during the tenures of previous administrations.
“These are old NAB cases against them, which they are using to blackmail [us].”
Once again urging the nation to not be dismayed by the economic difficulties, he said his government was cracking down against corruption and money laundering.
“Don’t worry at all,” he told the nation, adding that people who tolerate a corrupt leadership, unfortunately, have to pay the price for it.
He said the government is making all-out efforts to prevent stolen money from flowing out of the country.
The government is also taking steps to make exports competitive, create one-window operations to attract foreign investment and facilitate overseas Pakistanis in sending remittances through banking channels.
Imran said people abroad are “sitting ready to invest in Pakistan” once corruption is rooted out in the country and the right atmosphere is created.
“The day is not far when instead of asking people for loans for our country, we will give out loans to others,” he concluded with a sanguine smile.
He said the two political parties [PPP and PML-N], which remained in power over the last ten years, took the country’s debt to an unprecedented level of Rs30,000 billion in 2018 from Rs6,000 billion in 2008.
Pakistan’s total debt in 1971, he said, stood at merely Rs 30 billion, a time when the country had witnessed the construction of mega projects like Mangla and Tarbela dams as well as other infrastructure projects. Pakistan achieved development and progress in 1960s, he added.
Similarly, Imran pointed out that the country’s power sector circular debt swelled to Rs1,200 billion from Rs230 billion in 2009 and Rs 480 billion in 2013.
He said the previous government (of PML-N) even consumed Rs 40 billion from the Workers Welfare Fund as well as the funds for the Pakistan Steel Mills. The previous provincial government of Punjab also mismanaged various accounts and heads.
“These are the things done over the last ten years, which we are correcting. We have yet to implement our own policies,” the prime minister said and wondered how the opposition parties were getting together to what they call to “save the democracy”.
“They [the opposition parties] know that we are going for the audit of Rs 30,000 billion debt which they had accumulated over the last years. They are making hue and cry just to save them from the accountability as the huge amount embezzled by them would be exposed after the audit,” he added.
The prime minister also mentioned losses of Rs400 billion and Rs350 billion made by the Pakistan International Airlines and Railways respectively, over the previous years and said the government would go for the financial audit of the state institutions.
The PTI government, he said, was trying to ease the burden on the common man and finding a panacea for the ills the previous regimes wrecked on all the departments, including the Pakistan International Airlines, Railways and Pakistan Steel Mills.
Those elements knew it very well what they had done with the countrymen, he said, announcing that the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) led government would not succumb to any pressure from any quarter.
He said he wanted to give them a clear message.
Alluding to the magnitude of foreign debt, the prime minister regretted that a selected group in society was amassing pelf while others were deprived of the basic needs.
He said his government was conducting audit of different ailing departments and had not initiated any steps of accountability so far.
The people, who had been crying hoarse, were facing the old cases instituted by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB), he said, terming their tactics vain attempts to only blackmail the government.
He regretted that unfortunately, nations had to suffer due to the misdeeds of their corrupt rulers and assured the nation that soon difficult times under which the country had been passing through would be over. The country would rise again as it was gifted with immense potential and resources, he added.
The prime minister said the historic unprecedented package given to Pakistan by Saudi Arabia would ease its economic woes and hoped that it would not be a heavy burden if Pakistan needed to approach the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for further bailout package.
He was all praise for the Saudi leadership for their unprecedented support. The Saudi government had pledged a $6 billion package to ease out foreign debt payments and help overcome the current account deficit.
Imran said Pakistan was back on the international stage as well as its stature restored after the Saudi leadership requested Pakistani leadership to play a role in ending the Saudi-Yemen conflict.
He said the government was under pressure to seek assistance from the IMF under tough conditions, which would have overburdened the people. That was why efforts were being made to approach friendly states for financial support and leaving his government with little option to approach the IMF.
He said talks were also underway with two other friendly countries in that regard and he would soon pronounce good news for the countrymen in the coming days. His government had been successful in its efforts to ease the balance of payment crisis, he added.
About the Yemen issue, he said the Pakistan government was trying to play the role of a mediator in some way to end the fighting. Pakistan would play its role to unite all those states and in that regard he would break good news to the nation, he added.