KARACHI: Prime Minister Imran Khan declared on Monday he would accept no pressure from anyone or anywhere to give an NRO-style amnesty to jailed politicians instead he proposed a plea bargain for returning the looted money to getting free and going abroad.
In an interview with a private news channel, Khan said that action against politicians keeping 'benami' properties had started, while a similar action against all other people, who held benami properties or bank accounts, would begin after three days.
He again urged the non-tax filers to take benefit of the tax amnesty scheme. "After expiry of the deadline (July 3), action against all the benami property and bank account holders will be initiated and all such properties would be confiscated," Khan told a panel of interviewers.
The prime minister said the army and the government were on the same page and that he would accept no pressure from anyone and anywhere to give NRO [National Reconciliation Ordinance introduced by former military ruler Pervez Musharraf] to the jailed opposition leaders.
He ruled out the possibility of any deal for both Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz leader Nawaz Sharif and Pakistan People Party Co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari. He revealed that the sons of a jailed leader had approached two countries to help send their father abroad but they had informed him (Khan) that they would not interfere in the matter. However, he added, there should be a plea bargain and those who were in jails would have to return the looted money to get free and go abroad.
No one has approached me for NRO directly: PM Imran
Khan said that two NROs promulgated by former president Pervez Musharraf for the leaders of two political parties damaged the country a lot, raising the debt from Rs6,000 billion to Rs30,000 billion.
He said he had asked the law minister to amend laws for keeping the looters of the national wealth in common class in jails. "Under the new law, such looters of the public money should be put in those jail cells where the common men facing the theft charges were imprisoned," he said.
"A political prisoner could avail the A-class facility," he said, adding how that privilege could be extended to the plunderers of national wealth. "Such people should be sent to ordinary jails just like other thieves," he added.
Dilating on various economic challenges facing the country, he assured that after signing of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) deal in a few days there would be economic stability and the issue of exchange rate would end.
"Speculations on such an issue was animosity with the country," he said about instability in exchange rate. "Pakistan has come out of the difficult phase. Countries always passed through such difficulties in period of their reforms."
If Sharifs weren't given 'NRO' there would be no money laundering: PM Imran
Blaming the previous rulers for the economic woes of the country with an ever-increasing gap in the fiscal and current account deficits, he promised to streamline the economy by enforcing strict financial discipline through relevant laws and legislation.
He said his government inherited about $19.5 billion current account deficit, which caused huge pressure on the country's economic outlook and was pushing it into perils of being declared a defaulter. Besides, he added, a total of $14 billion commercial loan was obtained by the previous government to keep the value of rupee afloat in the market.
"They used the foreign exchange reserves to keep a check on the value of rupee. About $7 billion was spent by the previous government in one year from the foreign reserves. When we came to power, we had foreign exchange reserves for only two weeks," he added.
The prime minister said that every year about $10 billion was transferred to foreign country through money laundering. "If the issue had been tackled duly, the situation would not have worsened to such extend," he said. "Interest of those who shifted the money abroad through money laundering is against national interest as the value of rupee goes down and their dollars go up."
PM hits out at opposition for ‘selected’ taunt
He said that Hassan Nawaz, son of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, lives in a house worth 43 million pounds. Hudabiya Paper Mills [of the Sharif family] case was the first money laundering case followed by Surrey Palace case opened by the PML-N. "When the ruling elite class was involved in money launder than how one could stop others from doing so," he said.
He said that Zardari as president travelled 40 times to Dubai, spending billions of rupees from the national exchequer, while Nawaz Sharif spent Rs640 million on his foreign visits. The prime minister vowed to support the Senate chairman. He said that many leaders from the opposition parties were holding "meetings with us" as they don't see any opportunity for their parties in the future.
The prime minister said the timely assistance from the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, China and Qatar had greatly helped ease the financial pressure and improved the foreign payments. Without their support, he said, the payment of foreign loans could not have been made possible.
"The government has been able to meet about debt-servicing commitments of $10 billion," Khan said. "The pressure on rupee will be eased further during the current month (July) because it is also linked with the outflows or inter-banks mechanism."
The prime minister said that the overall financial situation would be stabilised as the IMF board was taking up Pakistan's request for $6 billion bailout package on July 3. "The country is moving in the right direction," he said.
Responding to a question, he said: "I don't care of being called 'selected' as we believed in serving the country and countrymen rather indulging in non-issues." Responding to another question about giving extension to Chief of Army Staff (COAS), he said neither he considered so nor it was time to think upon.
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