PTI chairman and deposed premier Imran Khan on Saturday linked his party’s return to the National Assembly with an investigation into the US-backed alleged conspiracy to topple his government -- a move that marks a departure from his demand for snap elections.
In an interaction with economic journalists at his Bani Gala residence, the PTI chief added that Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif’s statement about Pakistan’s economic situation would push the country towards default.
“The PTI is ready to return to the National Assembly only if a thorough probe is carried out into the US cipher,” Imran told journalists when responding to a question about whether or not his party would listen to the advice of the Supreme Court to return to parliament.
The PTI chairman said if the letter sent by President Dr Arif Alvi to the chief justice of Pakistan was investigated thoroughly, then there was a possibility to consider his party’s return to the lower house.
A two-judge bench of the SC comprising CJP Umar Ata Bandial and Justice Ayesha Malik heard the PTI’s petition regarding the acceptance of its resignations from NA in one go.
During the hearing, the CJP said PTI should play its role in parliament in these testing times as millions of people in the country were suffering from floods. He added that the floods had badly damaged the economy of the country.
The PTI had resigned en-mass from the lower house of parliament to force the new government to call snap elections.
At the same time, Imran kept building pressure on the government and the security establishment by holding political rallies.
The PTI chief also spoke with the journalists about his relations with the security establishment.
“The army is a reality and one cannot ignore it; and I had a good working relationship with it. But how these [ties] were spoiled in the end, they [army] must know it better,” said Imran. “The day they [army] decided to become neutral, the phase of political instability began,” he added.
The PTI chief further said he wanted cordial relations with everyone in the region in the national interest of the country.
He added that Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi intended to disintegrate Pakistan.
The former premier opposed opening trade with India, saying it would be the biggest betrayal with the people of Kashmir to normalise relations with New Delhi.
“It will also mark an end to [Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and] Kashmir's statehood status,” he added.
The ex-premier maintained that he wanted relations with the US under national interests.
Imran spoke about a host of issues affecting Pakistan’s economic standing, including renewed fears to default after certain developments that took place in the US.
“[PM] Shehbaz’s UN General Assembly speech was an announcement of the country’s bankruptcy,” he claimed.
The PTI chairman added that PM Shehbaz and Finance Minister Miftah Ismail had ruined the country’s economy.
“Markets have got the message that this government cannot pay its debt and its capability to raise the commercial loans has also ended,” he maintained.
“There is no free lunch and whosoever will save Pakistan from default, it will come at the cost of the economic sovereignty of Pakistan,” Imran claimed. He added that with the surrender of economic sovereignty, the purpose of the regime change would be achieved.
To a question about how his government’s record gross $57 billion borrowings were different from the PML-N government’s decision to seek $10 billion debt rescheduling, Imran said the circumstances at his time were different from now.
Speaking on the occasion, former finance minister of the PTI Asad Umar maintained that his party's government had added a net $34 billion in external public debt and also increased the foreign exchange reserves by $6.5 billion.
“Therefore, the net increase was $27.5 billion during 43-month tenure,” he added.
In response to a query, Imran said Pakistan was now facing an existential threat and both the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) had already said that the country was heading towards social unrest.
The price of Pakistan's US dollar-denominated global bonds – Eurobond and Sukuk – slumped while their yields skyrocketed on world markets after PM Shehbaz appealed for debt relief from rich nations to cope with the flood-hit economy.
“Markets have realised that this government does not have an economic roadmap. The investors no longer have confidence in the government. There is record inflation and industries are shutting down,” said Imran while explaining the current economic situation.
Former finance minister Shaukat Tarin claimed the current government had not secured external financing for the next six to nine months and expected the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank and other creditors to hold back the loans.
Tarin added that the conditions agreed by the PML-N-led coalition government with the IMF for the revival of the bailout package were more stringent than the programme signed by the PTI regime.
The former finance minister said the provincial governments could not create a Rs750 billion cash surplus and the Centre should talk to the IMF for relief.
Imran said the regime change was also aimed at ending corruption cases.
He added that ex-PML-N finance minister Ishaq Dar and party supremo Nawaz Sharif were thinking of returning to Pakistan.
“The FIA’s [Federal Investigation Agency] case against [PM] Shehbaz has ended and soon NAB’s [National Accountability Bureau] case will also be withdrawn, highlighting the purpose of regime change,” the former premier maintained.
To a question about whether he had the capability of understanding the political economy, international clout, and political capacity -- the three traits that are needed to steer Pakistan out of crisis -- Imran replied that PTI’s Pakistan was much better than what the PML-N had left behind in 2018.
To another question about the role of the PTI’s expansionary fiscal policies in compounding the current economic crisis, Tarin said all such statements were given when the PTI had left the government and there was no truth in them.
Tarin also claimed that the debt-to-GDP ratio was less when the PTI left power compared with what it was at the end of the PML-N tenure.
Imran claimed that the PTI’s philosophy was to protect the poor, give them subsidies and increase the economic growth rate.
He conceded that it was a mistake to give the industrial sector a tax amnesty scheme towards the end of his government's tenure.
He added that the amnesty to the industry should have been given at the beginning of the term.
The PTI chairman said Pakistan would not run like it had been till now, adding that the establishment of a stable government was inevitable and reforms in the system were necessary.
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