PESHAWAR: Prime Minister Imran Khan challenged leaders of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) "to do whatever they could" but the government would hold them accountable for "looting the nation's wealth".
Addressing a Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) provincial parliamentary party meeting at the Governor's House in Peshawar, Khan came down hard on former president Asif Zardari and former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, accusing them of money laundering and multiplying the country's foreign debt.
He told the party's provincial lawmakers that the government took steps to stop money laundering and that all the big mafias would be caught and the looters of the national wealth would be held accountable.
"During [former president Pervez] Musharraf's tenure, the foreign debt totalled Rs6 trillion, which rose to 15 trillion during the PPP [Pakistan Peoples Party] government and soared further to Rs30 trillion during the [Pakistan] Muslim League [Nawaz (PML-N)] government," he said.
"The debt burden soared because of money laundering in the past," he said. "We are paying Rs7 billion every day on the loans taken by the Peoples Party and the Muslim League governments," he added. "We have to tell the people how the previous rulers looted the country."
The prime minister said in a firm tone that those who looted the nation's wealth would not be spared. "These mafias are joining hands in the name of democracy but we are not afraid of train march, long march or the sit-in. I assure the nation we will not spare looters of the nation's wealth," he added.
Khan cited widening gap between exports and imports as the reason for the increasing trade deficit. Therefore, he added, the government was bringing comprehensive reforms in the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) to improve tax collection system.
The Federal Investigation Agency (FIA), the Customs and the FBR had been brought to one platform to stop money laundering, the prime minister said. "Because of these reforms, the fake accounts came to the fore," he added.
He described the rise in the dollar value as well as the trend of price hike as artificial. "Dearness, at present, is artificial and very soon the people will get relief because the government is taking steps for the welfare of the downtrodden people."
Defending the government's performance, the prime minister noted that within a period of just seven months, the government could not address all the problems or turn around the economy but "we are taking steps in the right direction and very soon, the problems facing the country will start mitigating".
Khan described Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Chief Minister Mahmood Khan as "the best captain" running the province. The provincial government was taking right decisions in line with the PTI policies, he said and asked the PTI members to work as a team.
About the development of the former tribal areas, the prime minister said the government would spend Rs1,000 billion on the development projects in the newly-merged tribal districts. "The government is also initiating a interest-free loan scheme for the tribal people to create employment opportunities."
He announced that all the provinces had agreed to contribute 3% of their share in the National Finance Commission (NFC) Award for the development of tribal districts, therefore, "allocation of financial resources" would not be a problem.
Earlier, addressing a tribal gathering in Jamrud, Khan belittled the PPP's threat of "march on Islamabad to oust the government", saying that "the government is here to stay, but [PPP Co-Chairman] Zardari is definitely going to jail".
Zardari threatened the march in his speech at a gathering in Garhi Khuda Bux on Thursday held in connection with the death anniversary of PPP founder Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. Khan hit back at the threat by challenging the PPP leaders to "spend just one week on the container".
"The PPP does not have the public support required for a successful anti-government campaign," the prime minister said. The government, he continued, would "provide food and water to PPP protesters, [if they march on the capital]". He added: "I assure you that our government is here to stay. We are going nowhere. Only Zardari will be going to jail soon."
Situation in Afghanistan
In his speech, Khan said that peace in Afghanistan would be beneficial for all including the tribal people. He announced that the Torkham border crossing between Pakistan and Afghanistan would remain open 24 hours in order to facilitate the trade between the two countries.
Khan repeated his call for installing an interim government in Afghanistan to hold elections in the neighbouring country. He said his earlier statement on the matter had drawn much criticism but it was important that Afghanistan should learn from Pakistan's experience.
"We in Pakistan have held elections without interim governments and saw that the results were immediately challenged by the opposition. Not having an interim set-up will only make the election process controversial," Khan said.
On the occasion, Khan announced a development package for Khyber district, including construction of Jabba dam, which will provide clean drinking water to 1 million people, and measures for provision of gas and electricity. He directed the Chief Minister to construct more sports grounds in the district.