Prime Minister Imran Khan has once again emphasized the need to create awareness among masses to strictly follow the standard operating procedure to prevent spread of COVID-19 pandemic.
Speaking in the National Assembly today [Thursday], he said our health system can cope with the challenge of pandemic if people strictly follow the preventive measures and burden on hospitals will increase if SOPs are not adhered in letter and spirit.
The Prime Minister said that it is an obligation on us to protect our elderly and sick people, patients of heart and blood pressure and chronic diseases.
Imran Khan said that Tiger Force has been deployed to convince people to observe SOPs to prevent contagion.
The Prime Minister dispelled the impression that there was any confusion on part of the government in taking measures to cope with the challenge of coronavirus.
He said we enforced lockdown as soon as we detect just twenty cases in Pakistan but it has been my consistent fear that corona is a phenomenon that nobody can predict anything about it.
He said in view of high density population in Pakistan we cannot enforce complete lockdown for longer period of time as we have to protect our people both from coronavirus and hunger.
He said the government established National Command and Operation Centre to gather data, get expert opinion from doctors, input from provinces and evaluate world’s trends in dealing with the pandemic.
He said now we have verified and updated data about corona patients and availability of necessaries medical equipment, including personal protective equipment, ventilators and beds in hospital.
Imran Khan said we introduced smart lockdown instead of complete lockdown to protective our people from the disease and hunger. He said thirty-four percent people have gone below the poverty line in India due to complete lockdown which vindicate our stance of not going for complete curfew.
Discussing the way forward, the Prime Minister said the government has decided to give priority to the construction and agriculture sectors. He said we have given historic package for the construction industry.
Thirty billion rupees have been allocated to provide affordable houses to the people on low interest rate. He said the government has not cut the Annual Development Program but reduced its non-development expenditure.
The Prime Minister said the focus is also being given to expansion of industrial sector to revive the industries. For this purpose, duty on thousands of raw materials have been abolished.
Imran Khan said it is also our effort to reopen the tourism sector with SOPs in order to protect the livelihood of the people associated with this industry.
Drawing a comparison between performances of his government with the previous ones, the Prime Minister said the present government inherited the current account deficit of twenty billion dollars which has now been reduced to three billion dollars.
He said the borrowing from the State Bank stood at six trillion rupees when PTI came to power but it has been brought down to zero. He said our tax collection witnessed a growth of 17 percent, and non-tax revenue 33 percent before the breakout of the Coronavirus.
He said Foreign Direct Investment rose to 2.1 billion dollars from one billion dollars. During this period, our remittances and exports also registered a growth.
Regarding dealing with the locust challenge, the Prime Minister assured all out efforts will be made to meet the challenge. He said NDMA has been authorized to make the necessary purchase to control the crop munching pests.
Prime Minister Imran Khan has said that Kashmir dispute stands internationalized because of our efforts. He said the whole world is witnessing the persecution of Muslims in India and Occupied Jammu and Kashmir.
The Prime Minister said the government has prepared a plan to further raise this lingering dispute at the world level. Expressing concerns over the situation in Occupied Jammu and Kashmir, he said India has deployed eight hundred thousand troops in the territory to suppress the Kashmiri people.
He said this is unsustainable. He said the Kashmiris movement for their right to self-determination cannot be stopped and it has reached the point of no return after illegal annexation of Kashmir by abrogating Article 370 of the Indian constitution, scraping special status of the Kashmir state.
He said Modi is a fanatic who is involved in persecution of minorities under its RSS inspired Hindutva ideology. He said Modi has committed a massacre of Muslims in Gujarat.
Regarding Foreign Policy of his government, the Prime Minister said today Pakistan enjoys cordial relations with the United States. He said it has been his consistent stances that we will not participate in any US war but will always be ready to facilitate any peace talks.
He said the United States acknowledges Pakistan role in peace process in Afghanistan and we are trying to facilitate in this regard. He said peace in Afghanistan is in the best interest of the region.
Imran Khan also elaborated that Pakistan is also trying its best to improve relations between the Saudi Arabia and Iran.
- NDMA given full authority on safeguarding against it and govt to support all expenses
- Some imports were cancelled due to the Coronavirus • Our efforts have carried on and will do so till needed
- Pakistan went into lockdown after 26 cases and 0 deaths based on other countries’ reaction
- Our environment a lot different from other countries, where along with health security, poverty and hunger are major issues due to the lockdown o High population density and daily wagers are differentiating factors
- India went into lockdown after us and reports indicate 34% gone into poverty due to it o UK went towards herd immunity. Brazil didn’t do any lockdown
- US as a superpower, despite lockdown has lost over 120K lives and economic loss and is now easing lockdown despite deaths rising in 23 states
- 13 March was when our lockdown began and I constantly said, if you as a country can afford it you can do a curfew/lockdown but in our conditions, how will lower income groups afford to live in lockdown
- NCOC played a key role in collecting data on availability of PPEs and medical equipment and getting expert knowledge on global trends and made projections based on our circumstances
- It is a must that the public follows SOPs otherwise the hospitals won’t be able to cope with the number of patients. We all must spread the word and make people aware to protect the vulnerable and old people. That’s what the Smart Lockdown means
- We must pray for those who have passed away and be careful over the next month, which is critical, so our health system can cope.
- IMF has shared that global economy has lost $12 trillion already. Largest crisis in 100 years and we don’t know when recovery begins. Major sectors tourism, services, airlines in crisis and unsure of recovery timeline o England has 20% economic growth reduction
- We started with a $20 billion Current Account Deficit, which indicates an unhealthy economy o Our exports had become stagnant at $20 billion, and imports went to $60 billion, worst deficit in our history. This impacted exchange rate and led to rupee devaluation
- This impacted inflation and hurt the country, especially the poor.
- 2013 we had PKR 16 trillion debt which went to 30 trillion in 2018. Half of our budgets goes to fulfilling debt obligations
- Our reserves went from 20 billion to 10 billion from 2013 in 2018 and we had to beg our friend nations and others to pay our obligations.
- I am the biggest fundraiser in Pakistan and have never been ashamed to collect funds for Pakistanis for the last 30 years, but I felt ashamed asking other countries for support. Even the best of friends, its shameful to be asking, even though we were at risk of default at that stage, and it is all because of past leadership and actions they took o The PM is like the father of the nation, the country men are like his children, if I can’t treat them well, how can I spend on myself. Doing so is reflective of one’s mindset.
- I spent $67,000 on trip to Washington DC. Same trip by Nawaz Sharif $549,000. Zardari $752,000.
- Trip to UN – Zardari $1,300,000 Nawaz Sharif $1,100,000, Shahid Khaqan $7,00,000, I spent $162,000.
- Davos – Yousaf Gilani $462,000 Nawaz $760,000, Shahid Khaqan $561,000, I spent $68,000 o Imagine what western leaders must have thought. These leaders are spending extravagantly and are here asking for money. They know what our countries’ standing is.
- Our liabilities went from PKR 6 trillion to 30 trillion
- I do this so that my team will emulate me and if they see me spending less, they will spend less o My staff was halved from its number of 534
- We must lead the austerity drive by examples from the top
- 70% of our debts was short-term, now we have changed the equation to 76% being long term debt.
- Circular debt – we got the govt, it’s was at PKR 1.2 trillion. o In electricity, we were stuck because of past contracts where we are producing electricity at high rates and selling cheaply leading to circular debt.
- In gas, we had 15-year contract, prices are now at half of the rate in the contract
- CAD o From a $20 billion deficit we are now at $3 billion deficit
- Primary deficit has been leveled due to reduction in federal expense and military expense (in real terms). • Revenue collection o Tax collection increased by 17% in the first 9 months of the year o Non-tax revenue increased by 33% o FDI has been doubled o Remittances increased by 3%
- Exports highest on a monthly basis, in the last 10 years o Rating increase to B+ o We have returned PKR 5,000 billion of our past debt.
- Largest impact has been on services
- Hotels, restaurants, tourism etc. and we want to balance between Coronavirus safety and allowing people in the northern areas.
- We are prioritizing construction sector, giving them incentive 30 billion PKR to invest and allowing low interest rate loans so they can build affordable housing.
- Agriculture – 50 billion PKR kept for subsidy for fertilizer and improve seeds. Fakhar Imam will give updates.
- PSDP has not been decreased despite current tough situation
- Industry – We must increase exports otherwise will stay in crisis. Thousands of materials have no duty now to reduce cost of doing business. Hammad Azhar will provide more information.
- Growth rate at 5%, but with CAD at record deficit, that is not sustainable and will lead to crisis. You must be on an export driven growth for the economy to succeed.
- Must reduce the difference between the rich and the poor and go towards a social welfare state.
- We have enhanced the program despite the economic situation to PKR 208 billion
- Cash handouts of 144 billion in record time to 12 million households in a transparent manner, all done without political basis – Sania Nishtar. Will take this to 16 million households.
- Panah gahs - We have now built 200 of them and we want to have them wherever daily wagers are so they can reduce expense and live decently and will take it across the nation.
- Insaaf card – 10 million have been provided the Insaaf card. Entire KP population will have it and it includes 1 million health insurance / family / year. We want to have this coverage across Pakistan
- We are giving PSDP funds to Baluchistan despite weak economy and to FATA. All provinces decided to give 3% from NFC award, I request all provinces to do that. India is trying its best to create destabilization in Pakistan. Their goal is to bring Pakistan down and coming in through FATA.
• Give gratitude to Shafqat Mehmood for doing 2 things o Ending education apartheid between English medium, Urdu medium and Religious Madrassahs, we will have one syllabus from March 2021 after consulting all schools
o Mainstreaming religious madrassahs which host 2.5 million students, so they study a comprehensive education
- It has been one of our biggest successes. Must give appreciation to Shah Mehmood Qureshi
- Relations with the US, we supported them in War on Terror, and yet we were blamed for everything. They failed in Afghanistan and blamed it on us.
- I am ashamed of two incidents
- Osama bin Laden was martyred in Abbottabad and the world called us bad after our ally came and killed him without informing us, and we have lost 70,000 people in fighting the war. This incident was horrible for our nation.
- In 2010, there were drone attacks, Senator Carl Levin asked in the Senate Foreign Relations meeting to Admiral Mullin about these drone attacks, Mullin said we are doing this with permission of Pakistan government. We couldn’t figure out if we are an ally or an enemy. Pakistanis abroad had to face the blowback on all of this.
- Our policy from the beginning has been that we will collaborate with US in peace talks and not in war. Senator Lindsey Graham who has been a very hardline viewer of Pakistan said that what PTI and Imran Khan said that there is no military solution and only a political solution.
- Now, we are not being ridiculed in the US and we are not asking them for things rather they are requesting us for support in Afghanistan.
- I am ashamed of two incidents
- In Afghanistan, we are going towards peace talks and it benefits us greatly in terms of trade to have a safe and secure Afghanistan
- Relationships with Saudi Arabia have improved, and they have helped us a lot.
- On the other, Iran is our neighbor, and we are trying our best to remove the conflict between them and Saudi Arabia. There are problems, but we are trying to fix this. We are not taking side in any war. We want to bring Muslims together.
- India – if we have peace and trade there would be benefits on both sides. We waited for the elections hoping Pulwama and other things were based on getting elected, but they kept going and when they passed Article 370 in Kashmir o I said at that time, we are fighting the Hindutva (Hindu supremacist, Fascist, Nazi inspired) ideology who don’t think they should have good relationships with Pakistan.
o This has serious repercussions for our relations with them
- I shared this with all world leaders at the United Nations, as Modi is a fanatic who is bad not just for Muslims but also for Hindus. I discussed this with the NYT editorial board on RSS links with Nazis and since then they have been criticized.
- Since Bangladesh got annexed, this is the first time, Pakistan gets better media than India. At the UNSC, I shared the Kashmir issue and hence India is criticized for it, unfortunately at my return when this could be taken to the next step, there was the whole movement to overthrow the govt which stalled our progress.
- Kashmir – It has reached the point of no return. India has 800,000 forces there and they have alienated the people and they can’t keep 8 million people down for long and this movement can not be stopped
- “Nations without a vision die” is a famous saying
- Pakistan was built for a mission, which is an Islamic Social Welfare state and they look at the state of Medina
- We want Pakistan to build on the rules of the state of Medina
- Allah decides to whom to give the power of faith. Even the prophet Muhammad (PBUH) was told to pass the message, rest is Allah’s jurisdiction. That’s why there is no compulsion in religion.
- Our youth should understand why Pakistan was built, what were Iqbal and Jinnahs views. They had certain rules to uphold values of the state of Medina o Humanity
§ State to take responsibility of the people of nation. Any country that runs on these rules of Medina will succeed. We can learn a lot from China, they did what the state of Medina did by bringing 700 million out of poverty and it’s a matter of time before they become a world power. That is why we are focusing on the EHSAAS program
- A book titled, the Arab conquest, shares what the state of Medina after battle of Badr in 624 A.D. where there were 313 warriors and 11 years later, the superpower of the time, Byzantine Empire collapsed in-front of them. 12 more years the Persian empire also collapsed. We must look at how all that happened and the phenomenon behind it. Our students must be informed of this transformation. Within 30 years, it became the world largest empire. That is the sunnat that we need to follow if we are to succeed.
- Due to kingdoms and chiefdoms there was no meritocracy, things were based on lineage, example the Mughals. (6 were there for 185 years, next 6 lasted 13 years because they didn’t have the capability). Same happened with the Ottoman empire where after Suleiman, his wife brought in her son who wasn’t capable, and the empire declined
- The more the meritocracy in democracy, the more it succeeds. There is no democracy in elections, democracy has merit and accountability and that’s why democracy has left kingdoms behind. China has a strong merit system, Premiere Lee and President have 40 years of experience starting from the bottom
o Rule of Law
- Unless we have rule of law, we can’t succeed. Hazrat Ali, during his tenure, lost a case to a Jew because they had rule of law. Hazrat Umar, a common man asked him where you got these clothes from, this shows accountability. Wherever there is poverty, there is no rule of law. Many African nations have lots of resources but over there also leaders have looted the country and taken money abroad. Unless rulers are accountable, the countries cannot develop
- Western democracy (Westminster) started with Magna Carta, bringing ruler under rule of law and that is what we need in Pakistan. Even today, $1 trillion goes from poor countries to rich ones each year which includes trade but also the ruling elite sending money abroad. I have no enmity with anyone, but from the day I came, they wouldn’t let me speak, whenever I say something, they create a ruckus. If today, if we bring proper accountability, only then we can provide our people with what they need.
- We have the 5th biggest reserves of gems but they are being taken out and the country is not gaining. Reko Diq was all caught up in corruption. Karkey was the same thing. Thanks to President Erdogan that got cancelled otherwise we would have had to 190 billion
- If the elite are doing corruption, how can we proceed. If we do any case, they say its political victimization. Was there political victimization against me, 2002 declared flat led to 6 cases in election commission, I didn’t say its political victimization, I had cricket earnings and had no public office yet in 10 months, I answered all supreme court questions, shared 40 year old documents, shared mortgages, showed all the money trail, even money I took from my wife. Even her declaration wasn’t enough, we showed transactions from 15 years ago and showed the money trail for that. I gave the money trail for all the legitimate money I made abroad and brought back home. This is not something amazing, in any country with genuine democracy this is the responsibility of the leadership
- I did not create NAB, I didn’t even bring one person in, 90% of the cases are from before our govt, yet I get the abuse, I want parliament to run and debate to occur, that is how ideas are fine-tuned. Whenever we start debate, they start calling it NAB Niazi. Question is do the leaders want to give answers to their wealth, if they don’t, why would others. This culture starts from the top. “Fish rots from the top”.
- Issues of corruption is that,
- Funds for development cannot be spent there,
- Since this money is illegal, you can’t keep it in country and the country loses. State department, US said $10 billion is sent abroad from Pakistan each year and hence we have to take loans from IMF, and it impacts the currency.
- You also destroy institutions to do the corruption.
- An example is the sugar scandal. It’s a landmark inquiry which started with increase in price of sugar. Report that came out, and we found out
- Sugar mills association decides what the price of sugar should be,
- When we did a forensic audit, we found out that PKR 29 billion subsidy was taken by the mills an only 9 billion was paid in taxes by all mills combined.
- The farmers were pressurized, to sell at prices of 140-180.
- Only 60-70% of stocks were declared and billions of PKR of taxes were avoided.
- After taking rebate, most of the sugar was sent to Afghanistan. So, they took rebates, avoided taxes and I found out from Chinese leadership that our sugar quality was lower and its more expensive than their own sugar. This elite capture. As we keep finding out more, we find these monopolies where people don’t pay taxes and sell to people at higher rates.
- All the regulatory institutions, SECP, Competition Commission of Pakistan, FBR were all aligned, they had two books, one official and one secondary which listed how much money was being sent to these people.
- I conclude with respect to the opposition, that I have no enmity with anyone and that our country has so many resources but until we have rule of law for everyone, there will be no stability, there will be a river of poor people and a few elite.
Keypoints by: Sajjad Haider