Prime Minister Imran Khan on Sunday claimed that high prices were a global phenomenon and Pakistan was affected by it too like the rest of the world in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.
“It [inflation] is the only problem that keeps me awake at night,” the premier said while responding to public’s questions during the fifth session of a TV programme, "Aap Ka Wazir-e-Azam, Aap Kay Saath".
PM Imran also warned the opposition that he would be more dangerous for them if ousted from power because till now he was only watching their gimmicks from his office.
“You will not find a place to hide if I took to the streets…I will just need to nudge people and others will be running to London as well to join the ones who already are there,” he added. The premier further maintained that global inflation and the price hike of commodities, triggered by a sharp disruption in the supply and demand chain because of the Covid-19 pandemic, had affected all the countries of the world alike.
He added that the post-coronavirus scenario had sent the prices of essential commodities skyrocketing across the world and Pakistan was not the only country to bear the brunt of the imported global price hike. The premier maintained that the government would take measures to provide relief to the salaried class as it was the “only one” facing a financial crunch amid the record inflation.
He added that developed countries including the US and Canada were facing high inflation too because of the Covid-19 pandemic. The premier categorically said that he would not meet PML-N President Shehbaz Sharif, who was also the leader of the opposition in the National Assembly, because it would amount to compromising over the Sharif family's crimes.
"I get called out for not meeting Shehbaz as he is the leader of the opposition,” he said. “I see him [Shehbaz] as the nation's criminal.” Responding to a query, the prime minister said an opposition leader had a stature but in the instant case, Shehbaz was delivering lengthy speeches in parliament without caring to respond to the corruption cases pending against him in courts.
Speaking about PML-N supremo Nawaz Sharif, who has been in London for more than a year on health grounds, the premier claimed that the former convicted premier would never come back to country because “he loves money”. He added that Nawaz floated rumors about cutting a deal to keep his party intact. “However, the time of these people has ended.”
“I am saying this publically…they should understand that this country will never forgive them,” PM Imran said. “Even the royal family doesn’t spend as much as the Sharifs [are spending in London].”
About reports that the former premier is planning to return, the prime minister said he was waiting for Nawaz to come back. “Please come back, we are waiting for you.”
About his government, he said the PTI would complete its current term and win the next general elections as well. According to PM Imran, the situation in the country was not as bad as the rest of the world as Pakistan's growth rate was 5.37% despite all the challenges.
The premier claimed that because of a boom in the agricultural and construction sectors, the income of people linked to these industries rose significantly. “There has been 73% increase in the income of the farmers,” he maintained. He said the skilled labour employed by the industries witnessed a 40% increase in their income.
According to the PM, the construction sector also recorded unprecedented growth that resulted in higher wages for the labourers as well. The corporate sector too registered record growth, the premier claimed, adding that he would ask them to raise the salaries of their employees amid such high profits.
PM Imran said only the salaried sector was lagging behind but the government would take additional measures to facilitate them amid the rising inflation.
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“The government will take measures to support the lower middle class, including the government employees, but they need to have patience,” he added. He said the fight of the PTI government was against “mafias” and “some elements” in the media had also sided with them to spread hopelessness in the country.
The premier maintained that the country’s economy was growing amid an increase in tax collection as per the reports in foreign media outlets. He also criticised the media, saying it was its right to criticise the government but it should avoid disseminating “propaganda and fake news”. During the session, Imran ruled out any deal with “corrupt opposition leaders”.
He said that former dictator Gen (retd) Pervez Musharraf committed the "biggest sin" by granting an NRO to the opposition. “Half of the taxes we collect are spent on paying back loans taken during their [opposition parties'] governments,” PM Imran claimed.
Speaking about the International Monetary Fund (IMF) bailout package, he said the government wanted to document the economy through the “mini-budget”. The PM said exemptions granted to facilitate certain sectors were resulting in tax evasions, adding that only two million people were paying taxes.
“If only two million people will pay taxes in a country of 200 million…then how will I have money to fix this country,” the premier added.
PM Imran said the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) was being reformed and the system was being automated to curb evasion of sales tax. He said the government would go after the rich who lived in big houses and drove expensive cars but did not pay their taxes.
In response to a question regarding elections, PM Imran said the PTI will only give tickets on the basis of merit. “If someone wants to give a ticket to a relative then a special committee I head will decide on the issue.” The PM also said the government would introduce scholarships to the tune of Rs47 billion to support the students hailing from lower-income classes.
He also talked about the Single National Curriculum (SNC), saying over the past 74 years, the education system implemented in Pakistan held back the students from lower-income classes. Replying to a caller’s question on the privileges enjoyed by criminals hailing from influential families, including Zahir Jaffer, the prime accused in Noor Mukadam case, and Shahrukh Jatoi, who convicted in the 2012 Shahzeb murder case, the premier said that his government would be tweaking the country’s criminal justice system. “Fixing the justice system will fix the country.”
(With input from APP)
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