PM Imran defends changes in cabinet order

PM hints at more changes, says PTM's struggle for Pashtun right 'genuine'

AGENCIES April 19, 2019
Prime Minister Imran Khan addresses rally in Orakzai.PHOTO: PTI

KALAYA: Prime Minister Imran Khan has said he will not hesitate to make more changes to his cabinet if required and directed the chief ministers of Punjab and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) to put their respective teams under the scanner.

"I want to tell all my ministers that whoever is not useful for my country, I will change them and bring that minister who is useful for my country," Imran Khan said on Friday while addressing a huge public rally in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa's (K-P) Orakzai tribal district – a day after a major reshuffle in his cabinet.

The cabinet shakeup, which comes eight months after Imran took office, included the replacement of finance minister Asad Umar with Abdul Hafeez Shaikh, who served as finance minister also during the Pakistan Peoples Party's last government from 2008 till 2013.

The premier said such changes are part of a good leadership.

"The captain has one objective and that is to get the team to win. I, as the prime minister, also have only one objective, to help my people win, to help them rise," he said.

"For this, I have changed the batting order in my team and I will do this again in the future."

The premier asked the K-P Chief Minister Mehmood Khan to keep an eye on his team.

"The rulers will be held accountable by Allah Almighty for the sufferings of the poor people – for not providing their children with education, medical treatment in government hospitals and for sudden increase in prices of the medicine," he said.

Speaking about economic condition of the country, Imran said Pakistan's debt increased from Rs6,000 billion to Rs30,0000 billion during the last 10 years.

With the increase in loan, he said, the assets of former president Asif Ali Zardari and former prime minister Nawaz Sharif's families also piled up.

The prime minister told the gathering that the country has to pay Rs6,000 billion as interest on the debt daily.

"Now as these corrupt rulers are being held accountable, they try to use democracy as a shield," Khan added.

He expressed his resolve to take special measures to improve the living standard of people in the tribal districts of the K-P.

He said development of the erstwhile Federally-Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) after its merger with the K-P is a priority of the government.

The prime minister acknowledged that the former tribal region has been badly affected by the war against terrorism. He assured that the internally-displaced persons will be fully compensated. He announced interest-free loan for the youth of the tribal districts to help them start their own businesses.

Referring to the destruction caused by the war against terrorism and deprivation faced by the people of tribal region, the prime minister said he was the only politician who had been opposing military operations in the region on behest of America. "I believe that the tribesmen themselves are unpaid soldiers of the country," he added.

The prime minister, who was wearing a tribal turban, said unfortunately the former rulers were unaware of the nature, traditions and history of the tribal people. "What actually happened to the tribal area [during war against terrorism] was not fully known to those living outside the region," he said.

The prime minister said it was the civil governments, not Pakistan Army, that were responsible for military operations in the tribal areas. He said no Pakistani prime minister ever visited the tribal areas as frequently as him as he knew the area better.

Mentioning the losses to houses, cattle and businesses faced by the people in Orakza, the prime minister said his government would not ignore their sacrifices and compensate them.

He said though demands by the Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement (PTM) for protection of Pashtuns' rights were genuine but the slogans they had been raising against the army were of no use.

"Instead of fueling the flame, it is time to mull over how to move forward and uplift the people by providing them education, health and employment opportunities," he said.

The prime minister announced Sehat Insaf Card for every family of the tribal districts. He added that the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf government will pay special attention to the Madaris, where education of modern sciences will also be included.

He said the government would promote tourism to cash in on the potential of Orakzai and directed the K-P chief minister to facilitate tourism to open up business and job opportunities for youth.

The prime minister arrived in the tribal area from Peshawar, accompanied by K-P Chief Minister Mehmood Khan, Governor Shah Farman, parliamentarians and party leaders.

On his way to the tribal district, he visited the Shaukat Khanum Memorial Cancer Hospital in Peshawar where he met two Afghan patients, who belonged to Mazar-i-Sharif.

Imran Khan expressed the desire to establish a cancer hospital in Afghanistan, saying that he will direct the management of Shaukat Khanam Memorial Hospital to look into the possibility.

"They [Afghan patients] had come to Peshawar for treatment," he said, adding that it prompted him to establish a hospital across the border. Khan prayed for early peace in Afghanistan and said it will help promote trade between the two countries.


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