HYDERABABD: Prime Minister Imran Khan has said Pakistan Peoples Party Co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz leaders Nawaz Sharif and Shehbaz Sharif could get reprieve in the anti-corruption cases if they returned the public money allegedly stolen during their respective terms in power.
"You [Sharifs and Zardari] may do whatever you want to. You may join forces but we won't spare you and this nation won't forgive you. You have only one way – return [looted] money to the nation and only then you will be forgiven," said the prime minister while addressing a rally in Sindh’s Ghotki district on Saturday.
Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi, Sindh Governor Imran Ismail, PTI leaders – Jehangir Tareen, Shamim Naqvi, Haleem Adil Sheikh as well as leaders of the Grand Democratic Alliance (GDA), including Zulfiqar Mirza, Arbab Ghulam Rahim and Mahar were present.
Without naming MPA Faryal Talpur, PPP leader and sister of Zardari, the premier said, “Even her [Talpur’s] driver owns five properties in Dubai.”
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PM Imran asserted that the politicians were crying that democracy was in danger but they actually wanted to escape accountability and protect the allegedly embezzled public funds.
The PM also criticised PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, who is leading a train march to Rawalpindi, saying the march aims at protecting 'theft' of public funds.
He blamed the PPP's Sindh government for persecuting political opponents and using the police force for the purpose of political oppression.
"So much fear has been instilled in the people that they take fright when voting for other parties," said the PM, adding that the provincial government also used water for politics by cutting off its supply to the farmers who opposed their party.
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However, the PM assured that he would stand by the people of Sindh who were subjected to political victimisation.
He also promised that he would continuously visit the province. "I want to assure people of Sindh that now I will come with full force to the interior Sindh," said Imran, adding that before the 2018 general election, he was preoccupied in politics of Punjab owing to which he could not dedicate proper time to canvass in Sindh.
He vowed to lift both Sindh and Balochistan provinces from poverty and underdevelopment.
On lack of funds, Imran said, “After the 18th Constitutional Amendment funds at disposal of the federal government have shrunk a great deal and now it is the responsibility of the provincial governments to spend on development of their respective areas.
"Under the NFC [National Finance Commission] Award [in the wake of 18th amendment] everything goes to the provinces – bankrupting the federal government," said the PM.
"Let me tell you about the Centre's condition after the 18th Amendment. Out of the total Rs5,500 billion [collected by the Centre], around Rs2,000 billion is spent on repaying the loans while Rs2,500 billion is transferred to the provinces. Of the remaining Rs1,000 billion, the defence [budget] consumes Rs1,700 billion. So, the Centre starts with a deficit of Rs700 billion."
Responding to a request of the event's host Ali Gohar Mahar of the GDA, who had requested him to allocate development funds for Ghotki, Imran said the money for development should come from the province.
"The question you need to ask is if Sindh has received Rs234 billion gas royalty [every year] for the last 10 years, how much share [from that royalty] was given to Ghotki which produces 70% of Sindh's gas," said the PM. “Sindh is supposed to be the most prosperous province of Pakistan because the country's financial capital, Karachi, is in Sindh and the province produces the highest quantum of gas.”
He said, “When Sindh's land is fertile and produces rich crops like rice, sugarcane, cotton, wheat, etc, then what is the reason behind poverty in Sindh? The only reason is corruption."
Giving an example of Nigeria and Congo, he said oil and diamonds’ wealth of the countries was plundered by corrupt rulers and the money made through corruption went to the pockets of a few persons and then it was laundered and deposited in fake accounts. The PM implied that the same was happening in Sindh.
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