• Warns opposition saying ‘If I am forced out of office, I would be more dangerous’
• Says inflation is due to pandemic
• Asserts ‘giving NRO to Opposition would be akin to treachery’
By Ali Imran
ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan on Sunday criticised PML-N President Shehbaz Sharif and said that he “does not consider him the leader of the Opposition but a criminal.”
The premier’s remarks came during a live question and answer session that he held with the citizens of Pakistan via phone calls.
“I want to warn you that If I am forced out of the office, I would be more dangerous,” the PM said to the Opposition. “If I come out on the streets, you would not even find a place to hide because the public has seen your true colours.”
He went on to say that the PTI government will not only complete this tenure but will also complete the next term.
Speaking about Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) supremo Nawaz Sharif who has been in London for more than a year on health grounds during the fifth session of ‘Aap Ka Wazir Azam Aap Key Sath’ programme, the prime minister said Nawaz will never come back to Pakistan because he loved money.
The former premier floats rumors about cutting a deal to keep his party intact, Imran said, adding that the time of these people, however, has ended.
“I am saying this publically…they should understand that this country will never forgive them,” he said, adding that the Sharifs fled Pakistan before he came to power. “Even the royal family doesn’t spend as much as the Sharifs [are spending in London],” the premier added.
About reports that the former premier is planning to return, the PM said he is waiting for Nawaz to come back. “Please come back, we are waiting for you.”
About his government, he said the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) will complete its current term and win the next general elections as well.
Inflation for salaried class
The premier said the government will take measures to provide relief to the salaried class as it was the only one facing a financial crunch amid record inflation.
Imran said inflation was a global issue as due to Covid-19, developed countries like the US and Canada as well were facing high inflation.
According to Imran, the situation in the country was not as bad as the rest of the world as Pakistan’s growth rate was 5.37 per cent in spite of all these challenges.
He said due to a boom in the agriculture and construction sectors, the income of people linked to these industries rose significantly. There was a 73 per cent increase in the income of the farmers, he said, adding that the farmers earned additional profits to the tune of Rs1,400 billion.
He said the skilled labour employed by the industries witnessed 40 per cent 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 also registered record growth, the premier said, adding that he will ask them to raise the salaries of their employees amid such high profits.
Imran said only the salaried sector was lagging behind but the government will take additional measures to facilitate them amid hyperinflation.
The government will take measures to support the lower middle class, including the government employees, but they need to have patience, he added.
Fight against ‘mafias’
He said the fight of the PTI government was against mafias and “some elements” in the media had also sided with these “mafias” to spread hopelessness in the country. The PM said as per the reports in foreign media outlets, the economy in Pakistan was growing amid an increase in tax collection.
The premier also criticised the media, saying it was the right of the media 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 NROs to the opposition.
“Half of the taxes we collect are spent on paying back loans taken during their [opposition parties’] governments,” Imran claimed.
Speaking about the IMF package, he said the government wanted to document the economy through the mini-budget.
The PM said tax 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.
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 will go after the wealthy who “live in big houses and drive expensive cars” but do not pay 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 headed by me will decide on the issue,” Imran added.
The PM also said the government will 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 the lower-income classes.
Replying to a caller’s question on the privileges enjoyed by criminals hailing from influential families, such as, Zahir Jaffer, the prime accused in Noor Mukadam case, and Shahrukh Jatoi, convicted in the 2012 Shahzeb murder case, the premier said that his government will be tweaking the country’s criminal justice system.
“Fixing the justice system will fix the country,” said Imran.
On February 1 last year, the PM for the first time addressed the public’s concerns via live telephone calls.