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Miffed by the opposition’s taunt of ‘selected prime minister’, Imran Khan said on Saturday that it was ironic that the protégés of military dictators were using such sarcastic terms for other politicians.
Though he didn’t name anyone, but Imran was believed to be referring to the Sharif brothers who had started their political career during the military dictatorship of the late General Ziaul Haq.
While speaking in the National Assembly a day after the passage of the budget 2019-20, Imran praised Hammad Azhar, the minister of state for revenue, who made a forceful defence of the budget in the face of scathing criticism from the opposition in the house a day earlier.
The prime minister blamed the previous governments for the current economic morass. “Money laundering and corruption are the biggest reasons for today’s economic crisis,” he said.
“The opposition is misleading the people on the rupee devaluation,” he added. “Shehbaz Sharif blamed us for the devaluation and current economic situation. He did not say how we got here – this government had inherited the largest fiscal deficit.”
Imran also blamed money laundering for the dollar shortage in the country. “One of the main reasons is money laundering. The ruling elite siphoned off dollars from Pakistan. Fake accounts, he added, were also used for laundering money and stashing it abroad.
“When the rulers do that [money laundering], then no one can be stopped. We’ve found out that there are $10 billion of Pakistanis abroad,” he said. “When our party came to power, all public institutions were facing record losses.”
However, the prime minister announced that his government would soon launch a major crackdown against money laundering by plugging loopholes in the system left by previous governments. He added that facilities were being provided to lure foreign investment into the country.
Turning to the opposition, Imran said those who were making speeches against the government themselves faced allegations of stealing public money. Unfortunately, the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) was headed by a person accused of corruption, he said.
“This [Shehbaz Sharif] opposition leader's family is responsible for this mess – how can they accuse us? In Western democracies, parliament protects public interest. Here, people who faced massive corruption charges are in parliament lecturing us,” Imran said.
The prime minister accused the Zardari family of laundering money through hundi and hawala networks. “Things are being revealed after investigations into the Zardari group, Omni group, and fake bank accounts. Money was stolen from Pakistan and sent abroad,” he added.
He added that the Sharif family did so [money laundering] by means of Hill Metal Establishment and Hudabiya Paper Mills. "Those who have left us in debt are blaming us. And then they try to mimic Nelson Mandela's voice and ask why the rupee is losing value."
In an apparent jibe at JUI-F chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman, the prime minister said the “12th player is going around gathering people to topple the government every other day”.
Quoting a federal minister he said: “Former US secretary of state Condoleezza Rice has mentioned in her biography that the US wanted these people in power because they protected Washington's interests."
The prime minister said that measures were being taken to protect the poor class from the burden of inflation. By next week, he said, the government would come up with a comprehensive package for the agriculture sector and would bring the Chinese technology to enhance the yield.
A subsidy of Rs217 billion has been given to protect the 75 per cent consumers of electricity, he claimed, adding that industrialisation was the key to national development and the government would make all-out efforts to reinvigorate the industry.
Imran also announced that his government would present a special Rs45 billion package for Karachi. “We have tried to bring a special Rs45bn package for Karachi, although it is the provincial government's responsibility.”
Referring to the steps taken in the federal budget, he said allocations for Ehsas programme have been enhanced from Rs100 billion to about Rs190 billion. A sum of Rs100 billion has been allocated to provide loans to the youth.
He also thanked Pakistan Army again for freezing its budget for the next year in view of the economic hardship facing the country. “[Army chief] Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa especially told me that the [army] desires that the money saved should be spent on Balochistan and [ex-] Fata."
The prime minister particularly mentioned Sardar Akhtar Mengal of the Balochistan National Party-Mengal (BNP-M), whose support proved critical for the government for having the budget approved by the house.
The prime minister congratulated his team and party members for actively participating in the budget session. He also appreciated the role of government allies for standing united with the ruling party.
Earlier, during his meeting with women lawmakers in his chamber, the prime minister lauded their positive and overwhelming participation in the budget session. He said women are a vital component of the society and their empowerment is a priority of his government.
The prime minister urged the women parliamentarians to play a more vibrant role to highlight national issues particularly those faced by women and poor people besides striving for their resolution. The women lawmakers reposed their confidence in the leadership of Prime Minister Imran Khan.
Those present in the meeting were Rukhsana Naveed, Shanila Ruth, Dr Seemi Bukhari, Rubina Jamil, Fauzia Bahram, Javeria Zafar Aheer, Munawara Bibi Baloch, Sobia Kamal, Nusrat Wahid, Ghazala Saifi, Asma Qadir, Saima Qadir, Nuzhat Pathan, Zile Huma, Shaheen Naz Saifullah and Saira Bano. Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Information Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan also attended the meeting.
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