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PM Imran Khan promises ruthless accountability

Prime Minister Imran Khan said on Sunday the government would ensure across the board accountability of the corrupt, while blackmailing and protests could not deter her from the hunt. In his first press conference as Prime Minister at the Chief Minister’s Secretariat here, he said drives against corruption did not succeed in the past as these targeted the opposition only, adding the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) was conducting across the board accountability as he was also summoned in the KPK government helicopter case

. Responding to political victimization allegations by the opposition, the premier said Shehbaz Sharif was arrested in a reference which was filed almost 10 months ago by the NAB, adding Shehbaz Sharif should have been arrested a lot earlier, acknowledging he was rather flustered when the Chairman NAB had decided to put off all investigations against Shehbaz Sharif before the general elections 2018.

About the press conference against Shehbaz Sharif’s arrest, he said birds of a feather flock had got together for fear of their own crimes, adding many of those, who sat in the press conference to show solidarity with Shehbaz Sharif, would be behind the bars soon as the FIA had got valid proofs of their corruption. Imran Khan said he would not spare any corrupt, adding no National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO) was possible under him. If a cricketer committed ball-tampering, would the punishment be deferred till the end of the series, he questioned.

“The PML-N was free to protest on roads and in the assembly and I may arrange a container for them if they like so”, the premier said, adding no blackmailing could save the corrupt. Regarding the PPP and PML-N coalition in the by-polls, Imran Khan said the decision by the PPP and the PML-N leadership to contest elections from a single platform was a sufficient proof that it was the union of the corrupt, and Nawaz Sharif, Asif Ali Zardari were together for corruption. Premier Imran Khan said the government would introduce Whistle Blow and Witness Protection acts next week, adding 20 per cent money would be given to the person who blow the whistle and help the government in recovering the money from the corrupt under the law.

Responding to a question, the premier said corruption was the biggest problem of the country as it weakened the country’s economy and increased foreign debts. He said unearthing of a two billion rupees bank account of an ice-cream seller and 170 million rupees accounts of a student by the FIA were few examples how corrupt people operated in the country. The PM said the country’s economy had great potential and he was sure it would bounce back very soon, adding the country was gifted with precious minerals and other resources which would lure investors.

The prime minister said the nation may have to pass through hard times as the government would have to raise prices otherwise the existing foreign debts of 28,000 billion rupees would further soar. Sharing with the nation, the poor state of economy due to bad economic policies of the previous, he said the country was pushed under foreign debts of 28,000 billion rupees by the Nawaz Sharif and Asif Ali Zardari governments while these debts were mere 6000 billion rupees in 2008. He said the current account deficit of the country increased to 16 billion dollars during the past five years under Nawaz Sharif. The premier said the only way to avoid dearness was to recover the plundered money from the corrupt, adding the government had discovered 10,000 properties owned by the Pakistani nationals in the UK, UAE and other parts of the world.

He said the Pakistanis had bought properties worth 900 billion rupees abroad and many of them would have been bought through money laundering. He said the government had sought details of 895 companies while notices had been issued to 300 persons in this regard, adding some very costly flats abroad were owned by the servant of a big-wig. PM Imran Khan said Asset Recovery Unit comprising members from the FIA, FBR and State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) was set up in the prime minister house and the government had signed Memorandum of Understanding (MoUs) with the UK while it was seeking similar MoUs with Switzerland and UAE governments. About Chief Minister Usman Buzdar, the prime minister said Buzdar would stay as chief minister of the province as long as Pakistan Tehreek e Insaaf (PTI) government was in power, adding he had chosen him as the chief minister for being humble, honest and conscientious. He said Buzdar had reduced the expenditure of the chief minister house from 55 lakh rupees per month to mere 8 lakh rupees.

He added that former chief minister Shehbaz Sharif had spent 350 million rupees annually on four camp-offices of the chief minister in the past. He said the Punjab chief minister had the first hand knowledge of the problems of the people and was easily accessible to the masses and the parliamentarians. About the power losses, Prime Minister Imran Khan said Nawaz Sharif government had put the power sector under huge debts, adding the circular debt of power companies stood at 1200 billion rupees today while it was 480 billion rupees when the Nawaz Sharif government came into power in 2013.

He said the gas sector and Railways were faced with a deficit of 157 billion rupees and 132 billion rupees, respectively, while Pakistan Steel was closed down under the Nawaz government. He informed the journalists that Nawaz Sharif spent Rs 650 million on foreign tours, while 70 million rupees were incurred on the construction of the wall of Jati Umra residence of the Sharifs. On the anti-encroachment and anti-land grabbers drive, PM Imran Khan said the government had recovered 4,647 kanal land worth Rs 200-300 billion in the federal capital, while 2,000 acres of land had been vacated in Punjab, adding 2,400 kanal of this vacated land in Punjab was grabbed by a politician.

He said the government could not use this money immediately due to legal implications. To a question, the prime minister said the Local Bodies system would empower the masses at the grass-root level through village councils, adding the government would also ask the Sindh and the Baluchistan governments to follow the KPK and Punjab models. About the economic challenges, he said the government was weighing various options before going to the IMF for assistance, adding some friendly countries had been approached to put some money in the SBP so that the government did not have to go to the IMF. He said the government was determined to put the FBR and the governance system on the right track.

“CM Usman Buzdar was a symbol of change and would be the most successful chief minister in the political history of the country”, the prime minister responded. To a query, he said the deficit could only be grappled through restructuring of different government institutions. PM Imran Khan said Pakistan had been far behind other countries in the human development area in the South Asia, adding the social indicators were also poor. He said corruption was eating away the body politic of the country like termite.

He said common people were the target of 90 per cent indirect taxes, while the developed countries accumulated revenue through direct taxes. About the performance of the provincial ministers, Prime Minister Imran Khan said, “I had promised the nation that I would deliver. The cabinet has been working hard to set the agenda for the coming years in light of the first 100 days performance.” The prime minister also thanked the journalists who had worked with him for the last 22 years political struggle. Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar, Federal Ministers Chaudhry Fawad Hussain, Shafqat Mahmood, Provincial Minister Fayazul Hassan Chohan, Naeemul Haq and MNAs were also present on the occasion.