Islamabad - Prime Minister Imran Khan reiterated his confidence in bringing an economic turnaround, the day country’s stock exchange witnessed a bloodbath that came only days after the historic currency depreciation.

In a pre-recorded talk with a group of journalists aired on TVs Monday night, the prime minister acknowledged the situation was serious but he took to reassure his people that good days were not far.

“Our performance in the given scenario is exemplary. You will see stability in the coming days,” Khan said, detailing the mess Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf government had inherited.

Answering questions by the panel of journalists in over 90 minutes interview, he shed light on various issues of national importance including economy, civil-military relations and governance.

Khan revealed he’s going to reshuffle his cabinet after 10 days and the ministers who failed to perform satisfactorily will be shown the door.

Govt responding to

public calls

To a question, the prime minister told the panel Nawa-i-Waqt Group chief Rameeza Majid Nizami had informed him a few days ago that she was approached by a person who sought help against injustice to his family. She brought the issue into Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar’s notice and action was taken within 45 minutes, he added.

Premier Khan said it was wrong to say that no one was paying heed to the problems of the people. He strongly rejected the impression that goverment  departments were

insesitive to public woes, and said that all the relevant avenues were available and active to solve people's problems.

Rupee devaluation

The prime minister said he had found out about Friday’s dip in the currency value through the TV. The decision to decrease the rupee value against the US dollar was taken by the State Bank of Pakistan and not by the government.

“Please remember, we are trying to make institutions autonomous… We have made SBP autonomous, they took the decision because they deem it fit.”

He admitted that it would have negative impact on market and would be evolving some mechanism that such things would not happen in future.

“I have conveyed a message to the SBP to keep us in the loop so we can give our input,” the prime minister said.

But he said, “The [rupee] adjustment is a temporary phenomenon. We are facing a foreign exchange crisis. Our [macroeconomic] indicators are now headed in the right direction, we will not face the issue in the future.”

Khan said the previous government had left a trade deficit of $19 billion, which increased from a previous deficit of $2.5 billion. “The PML-N govt had spent $7 billion to maintain the value of the rupee,” he said.

Direction of govt

He said that in first 100 days they had just laid down their way forward in all areas and set the future course of government, which actually is a paradigm shift from protecting the elitist class to safeguarding the poor.

The focal point of PTI government’s activities is to pull up the poor and down trodden by providing them better education, health facilities and job opportunities, he added.

To a question Imran Khan said that they were in process of reformation of the prevalent legal system in the country and were trying to introduce such legislation which would make it binding on courts to settle the cases of civil nature within one and a half years.

Civil-military relations

To a question on his government’s relationship with the military, the PM said that the civil and military leadership was working in unison and added that Army Chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa was standing steadfastly by the government.

But he insisted that the civilian government had the final say in all the national matters. “There’s not a single decision that has been taken alone by either of us. All decisions are taken by me and Gen Bajwa stands right beside those decisions,” he said.

Imran Khan said leaders around the world seek the opinion of the military “since they are equipped with the means to brief us on security issues”.

Asked about his government’s efforts to address the missing persons’ issue, the premier said a meeting was scheduled between him, Gen Bajwa and Balochistan National Party (BNP-M) president Sardar Akhtar Mengal. However, Mengal could not make it to the meeting, he said.

“But for the record, Gen Bajwa has given me full assurance regarding resolving the missing persons’ issue,” the PM said.

Foreign policy

Talking about foreign policy, the prime minister informed that US President Donald Trump had written him a letter seeking Islamabad’s help in brokering peace in war-torn Afghanistan. He said his government would be forthcoming as peace in Afghanistan is in the interest of Pakistan.

To a question about opening up of Kartarpur Corridor Imran Khan said that it was just a move to facilitate Sikh community to have easy access to their holy place and hoped that this would soften the tension between the two nuclear neighbours.

To another question Imran Khan said that negotiations and dialogue would be the only way forward between India and Pakistan and sound optimistic of resolution of Kashmir dispute through parleys between the two sides. According to him war was no option between the two nuclear states so the other way forward is dialogue.

CJP remarks and Swati issue

Khan expressed “regret” over remarks by Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar in which the top judge pointed to alleged nepotism on Khan’s part in the appointment of Zulfi Bukhari’s as the Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Overseas Pakistanis and Human Resource Development.

Speaking about a case of alleged abuse of power by federal minister Azam Swati, Khan said he does not interfere in the matters of institutions to protect anyone. “We will obey the court orders. Azam Swati will resign if found guilty,” he said.

 

 

Inherited problems and govt response

Imran Khan said that when they took over the reins of power the most urgent and grave issue was the wide gap between the import and export bill which had created severe balance of payment issue.

He said that they had two choices: straight away approach IMF and secure bailout package, or explore other avenues to manage the crisis. They preferred latter as taking bailout package from IMF on very tough economic conditions would put the burden on masses, who are already under economic crunch.

He said that they had approached friendly states and referred to the packages secured from Saudi Arabia, China and other states.

He said that now if they have to approach IMF they would slice a better deal and on soft conditions with little impact on the people of Pakistan.

Responding to a question, Imran Khan assured the nation that his government would not let shortage of dollars to prevail for a long time as all the indicators are on positive trajectory.

He said country’s exports have shown increase, on the government’s incentives and steps the remittances have started coming through legal channels while positive signals were coming on foreign investment front as international businesses entities were planning to come here with big investments.

He quoted the Chinese ambassador as saying that China is making investment contracts with Pakistan for the first time.

“China created export zones, with foreign investment and local labour. We want to replicate the same model.”

 

The prime minister said the country is currently facing crises on multiple fronts and all institutions are running in losses.

“As per the Singapore model, we will incorporate these institutions into holding companies,” he said. “Our performance in the given scenario is exemplary. You will see stability in the coming days.”

When asked about the issues facing the business community, Khan said Pakistan is lagging behind when it comes to ‘ease of doing business’.

“We are trying to create a [positive] environment. We are establishing an office entitled ‘ease of doing business’ to provide a one-window solution to investors and to resolve their issues,” he said. “Though it is a slow process, we are trying our best to ensure ease of doing business.”

He said the government will provide incentives to the industry.

 

 

Corruption

Prime Minister Imran Khan once again dubbed corruption and money laundering as number one problem of the country and said that his government would be bringing a stringent anti-money laundering legislation to tighten noose around those involved in loot and plunder of national wealth.

He also shared the progress his government had made on this front especially engagement with some 26 countries across globe to secure information about the illegal assets of and money stashed in these countries.

The PM said that the focus of his government would be on strengthening of institutions and introducing the culture of transparency in the functioning of the government in each and every sphere.

Prime Minister Khan said the nation would have to decide whether “it wants to let corruption prevail”.

He cited the example of China in ridding itself of corruption. “China is sailing past the US in economy, they have convicted 400 ministers during the past five years,” he noted.

Khan said the major hurdle in his government’s anti-corruption plans are some “old-minded bureaucrats” who are “going slow [and] creating an impression that the government will not be able to run”.

“We have recovered land worth trillions of rupees,” he said. “Mafias are behind real encroachments. We have asked the authorities not to target poor people but the mafias.”

“FBR, FIA and the anti-corruption [watchdog] are working under the government. We have signed agreements on data sharing of each others’ citizens with 26 countries.”

Sharing an “interesting aspect” of the drive, Khan said the UAE and Saudi Arabia had refused to share the data of Pakistani iqama holders saying it was equivalent to sharing their citizenship information. “Now, you’ll know why iqamas were sought secretly,” he remarked.

U-turns and PAC chairmanship

Khan once again defended reversing his own decisions, saying: “People always blame me for taking U-turns, I have never denied that and I don’t think of it as a bad thing. What’s wrong in changing the strategy to achieve your goals?”

“My goal is across-the-board accountability and I’m willing to shake hands with anyone who won’t object to that,” he said.

Khan said he decided to travel abroad only when he knew the visit would be beneficial for Pakistan’s economy. “Right now everyone abroad is aware that our economy is destroyed. So, my focus is on fixing that before touring abroad.”

To another question Imran Khan said that they could not dole out the chairmanship of Public Accounts Committee to Leader of Opposition Sheahbaz Sharif as he himself was facing a number of corruption charges and being detained by NAB. How he could then head PAC a Parliamentary watchdog on corruption, he asked. He said the National Assembly committees may be formed without PML-N if the opposition party did not soften its stand.

South Punjab

On creation of South Punjab province Imran Khan said that they would be doing it in phases and initially they would be establishing a Secretariat in Multan to deal with the administrative matters pertaining to the districts in South Punjab.

He further said that in case of tribal areas’ merger in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa the things were progressing gradually and on same pattern they would be doing it in case of formation of South Punjab as separate province.