Prime Minister Imran Khan addressed the nation through a video message on Wednesday, reassuring people regarding the steps taken by his government to tackle the economic hardships faced by the country.
Beginning his address with the “good news” about the financial package the government has secured from Saudi Arabia, he said: “We were trying for many days to get rid of this burden placed on us of the debt. We had to pay back our debts otherwise we would have been faced with default.”
“We have got an amazing package from Saudi Arabia… which has taken off the burden.”
He said had the government approached the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for a bailout directly, it would have to borrow more money that would result in an increased impact on the poor segments of society.
“So our efforts were geared towards getting loans from friendly countries,” he said, adding that now even if the government goes to the IMF, it won’t need as big a package from the lender.
The premier said his government is in talks with two more countries, “and we expect a similar package from them”. If that is secured, he said, the burden of the loans on the salaried class will be minimal.
Khan, whose address came a day after his visit to Saudi Arabia, also announced that Pakistan is trying to play the role of a mediator in the Yemen war involving the Kingdom.
“We are now trying our best to the play the role of a mediator in ending the [Yemen] war,” he said, adding that Pakistan will try to play to its role in ending conflicts in the region and “bring all Muslim countries together”.
‘No corrupt man will go scot-free’
The prime minister then lashed out at the previous governments for raising Pakistan’s debt from Rs6 trillion to Rs30 trillion in the last 10 years alone.
In a reference to the PPP and PML-N, PM Khan said the opposition parties that are accusing his government of ‘incompetence’ are doing so because they fear that “their corruption will be unearthed when we do an audit of the Rs30 trillion”.
He said the PTI government hasn’t even begun implementing its policies as yet, but is busy “cleaning up the economic mess” of the last 10 years left by the previous governments.
“They just want an NRO [National Reconciliation Ordinance] from us,” he said.
“I want to give them a message: ‘open your ears and hear this: you can come out on the streets. We will give you containers and give you food. You can do whatever you want in the assemblies… [But] no one will get an NRO’.”
“No corrupt person will be let go,” Khan said, recalling that he had been elected by the nation on the promise that he will “put the corrupt people in jails”.
The premier said the country has no future until and unless corruption is rooted out.
“The fake bank accounts… where is all this money coming from? The money is being stolen [from the nation].
“The country’s leaders then have to go and ask for loans abroad… because dollars are laundered out of the country.”
He said the entire burden of loans taken by corrupt officials falls on the nation. Taxes are imposed and prices are raised in order for the country to be able to pay back the loans.
“This is the cycle that is functioning in Pakistan… a small class is growing wealthier, while the masses are becoming poorer.”
In order to break this cycle, Khan said, the government will ensure accountability is carried out “no matter what anyone does”.
He said the cases the opposition parties are accusing the PTI government of backing were all started during the tenures of previous administrations.
“These are old NAB cases against them, which they are using to blackmail [us].”
‘Don’t worry at all’
Once again urging the nation to not be dismayed by the economic difficulties, he said his government was cracking down against corruption and money laundering.
“Don’t worry at all,” he told the nation, adding that people who tolerate a corrupt leadership, unfortunately, have to pay the price for it.
He said the government is making all-out efforts to prevent stolen money from flowing out of the country.
The government is also taking steps to make exports competitive, create one-window operations to attract foreign investment and facilitate overseas Pakistanis in sending remittances through banking channels.
Coming to his affordable housing initiative, Khan said the government plans on constructing five million homes in the country. He noted that 40 other industries will experience a boost when construction starts for the housing scheme and employment opportunities will be created.
The prime minister also said he will announce a special package for proverty alleviation in the country in the coming days.
‘Day isn’t far when we will give loans to others’
While closing his address, Prime Minister Khan urged his fellow countrymen to understand that they will have to face some difficulties for a limited period of time, likening corruption to “cancer”.
“When cancer is operated upon and removed, it causes pain to the patient, but then the person recovers [from the disease],” he said.
Khan said people abroad are “sitting ready to invest in Pakistan” once corruption is rooted out in the country and the right atmosphere is created.
“The day is not far when instead of asking people for loans for our country, we will give out loans to others,” he concluded with a sanguine smile.
PM didn’t address the most important question: PPP
Reacting to the prime minister’s address, PPP leader Farhatullah Babar said Imran Khan should reveal who has asked him for an NRO.
“None of us has asked him for an NRO,” he said while speaking to DawnNewsTV, adding that Khan should go to courts if he wants to accuse anyone of corruption.
Babar said the premier had failed to address today’s most important question in his speech, which he said concerned the terms and conditions of the loan the PTI government has secured from Saudi Arabia.
Regarding Khan’s announcement that Pakistan will act as a mediator in the Yemen war, the PPP leader questioned “whether the quid pro quo for the loan is to send additional [Pakistani] troops to Saudi Arabia”.
He welcomed the premier’s resolve to act against corrupt elements, but cautioned him against using corruption as a means for “political witch-hunting”.
Imran Khan has fallen into the trap he set up for us: PML-N
PML-N leader and former federal minister Ahsan Iqbal said while it was good that the PTI government had secured assistance from a friendly country such as Saudi Arabia, but that the loan will only provide a space of a year to the ruling party.
He noted that the government will have to repay the $3 billion deposit, and return the deferred payment for oil imports, both after a year.
“We don’t know how they will give out $6bn from the treasury next year,” Iqbal said.
He said what Pakistan actually needs is foreign direct investment, but questioned how investors would come to the country when the prime minister himself had pointed out flaws in the country while speaking at the investor conference in Saudi Arabia.
Iqbal held the “political theatre led by Imran Khan” for the past 1.5 years responsible for the political crisis and uncertainty that has resulted in a decline in foreign exchange reserves of the country.
Confusion over timing
Earlier, there had been some confusion about the timing of the premier’s address.
The official Twitter account of Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf had tweeted earlier in the day that the address would take place at 7:15pm.
Later, Special Assistant to Prime Minister of Pakistan on Media Iftikhar Durrani took to Twitter to inform the public that the address would take place an hour late, at 8:15pm.
However, it didn’t end here, as PTI Senator Faisal Javed Khan then made another announcement through Twitter saying that “the revised time of prime minister’s address to the nation is 7:45pm”.
The address follows his return from Saudia Arabia, a trip he undertook on the invitation of King Salman bin Abdul Aziz Al-Saud to attend the Future Investment Initiative (FII) conference.
Late on Tuesday, the government announced that Saudi Arabia has agreed to provide Pakistan $3 billion in foreign currency support for a year to address its balance-of-payments crisis.
The Kingdom has also agreed to provide Islamabad with a one-year deferred payment facility for import of oil, worth up to another $3 billion.