LAHORE - Prime Minister Imran Khan has revealed that the sons of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif had approached two countries with a request to intervene and facilitate their besieged father

The prime minister made the remarks while addressing a panel of anchorpersons and senior journalists. The discussion, wherein PM adviser on Finance Dr Hafeez Sheikh and FBR Chairman Shabbar Zaidi were also present, was aired by ARYNewsTV on Monday evening.

Khan said the two countries, which he did not name, conveyed the message but refused to intervene for bailing out Nawaz, who is currently incarcerated after being found guilty in a corruption case.  “They told me that we will not interfere,” he said.

“The NRO will not be offered,” he said, referring to a deal similar to the national reconciliation ordinance issued by former dictator Pervez Musharraf, under which cases against a large number of politicians and political workers were quashed.

“Two NROs issued by Musharraf to [PML-N leader] Nawaz Sharif and [PPP Co-Chairman] Asif Ali Zardari destroyed the country... Later, both of them also gave NROs to each other,” the prime minister said.

The only way forward, he said, is a plea bargain. “A plea bargain can be allowed and no foreign country can do anything in this regard. They [Sharif and Zardari] will have to return the [looted] money,” he said.

“Give the money and go out of the country,” Imran Khan said, adding that Nawaz Sharif wants to seek treatment from a foreign country and he will be allowed to do so, but after he settles with the government.

He added that Asif Zardari is “facing difficulties; he will also be let go if he returns the money”.

About pressure on his government to provide some relief to the two leaders, he said: “This is the first setup where the Army is standing by the government’s agenda and manifesto. No one can escape from any quarter. No intercession is going to work in this regard.”

He also warned that those politicians who had been arrested or convicted under money laundering charges would not be able to avail higher classes in jail.

“I have told the law ministry that the money launderers should be sent to a common jail. Soon, legislation will be made in this regard. They [money launderers] should know how a common criminal is treated in this country,” he said.

When asked if he had the word ‘selected’ banned in parliament, he replied: “I don’t care if anyone calls me ‘selected’ or something else.”

“My theory is very simple and I would like to tell it to Bilawal Bhutto, because he knows English better [than Urdu]: ‘Mind over matter: I don’t mind and they [who use the word] don’t matter’.”

Talking about the state of the national economy, the prime minister claimed that PTI-led government had spent $10 billion on debt servicing of the loans taken by previous governments.

About rupee depreciation, he said his government inherited a record current account deficit of over $19bn, which increased the pressure on the rupee. He said that a comprehensive plan is being devised to control smuggling and money laundering, for which new legislation will be brought in.

Asked about the higher tax target for next year, he said that the target will be achieved with the help of tax reforms and by expanding the tax base and net. He again regretted that half of the country’s tax collection is being spent on debt servicing.

The prime minister was also hopeful that the situation on the economic front will normalise after the next meeting between the government and the International Monetary Fund.