ISLAMABAD: After being kept from parliament for 19 days because of his injuries, Pakistan Tehreek-e- Insaf chief Imran Khan was finally sworn in on Wednesday.
Arriving directly from a hospital appointment for this particular session, he delivered a wide-ranging speech at the floor of the lower house, outlining his ‘patriotic vision’ against the ‘prevalent unjust system’ in the country and elaborating his reconciliatory approach for tackling the numerous challenges it faces.
“Today, I am not speaking as the chief of an opposition party, but as a patriotic Pakistani,” the PTI chief told lawmakers.
In his speech, Imran said disengagement from the USled war on terror, which he claimed is ‘based on a lie’, should be the government’s priority. At the same time, however, he conceded that terrorism is Pakistan’s problem, signalling a slight shift from his earlier stance on the issue.
Imran urged the government and military leaders to develop a strategy to end US drone strikes in the country’s tribal areas, saying that the drone campaign made ‘our war’ on terrorism the same as the US war in the eyes of the Pakistani public. He also called for a strategy to eliminate militancy in various pockets across the country, saying that the economy would continue to suffer unless ‘the cancer’ was eliminated.
The PTI chief said a comprehensive approach, which took all stakeholders on board, was needed in this regard.
“The prime minister, army chief and chief ministers should sit together to form a policy on drone attacks…We have to make this war [against terrorism] our war, and it cannot become our war unless we disengage from US drone attacks,” he stressed. At the same time, Imran maintained he was not in favour of shooting down US drones, calling instead for a more concerted diplomatic effort to end the campaign.
“We should approach the UN Security Council and raise issue there,” he said, highlighting that US President Barack Obama was already facing domestic pressure regarding the controversial drone programme.
The treasury benches welcomed Imran’s suggestions on drone strikes and terrorism, with Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan saying, “The nation should stand united and send out a message that Pakistan is not a banana republic.” He added that the government had already discussed the issue with the army chief in detail and would formulate political consensus on drones soon.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif – who was absent from the house on Wednesday – had also demanded an end to the US drone campaign in his maiden speech after assuming office.
Meanwhile, in his speech Imran criticised the hike in general sales tax in the 2013-14 budget. Terming the tax network ‘unjust’, he said there was a need to revive the system. He also proposed taxes for the real estate sector.
The PTI chief discussed the issue of corruption as well and called for making the National Accountability Bureau an independent institution. He maintained that a conflict of interest law was the need of the hour so that those at the helm of the country’s affairs could not avail any undue benefits during their tenure.
Imran also called for local bodies elections across the country, stressing that good governance could not be established in the absence of a local body system.
Talking about rigging in the elections, the PTI chief requested Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry to take notice of the issue. He called for thumb impression audits across the country.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 20th, 2013.
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