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ISLAMABAD: In a passionate appeal to judiciary to conduct daily hearing of graft cases against Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) President Shehbaz Sharif, Prime Minister Imran Khan on Sunday reiterated that his resolve of not giving any ‘NRO’ to those who have plundered the wealth of the country.

“I don’t consider him [Shehbaz Sharif] the opposition leader, but a criminal…I request the judiciary to listen cases involving him [Sharif] as how billions of rupees were recovered from the accounts of his peon,” he said during a live question and answer session that he held with the citizens of Pakistan via phone calls.

“I’m warning you that if I’m forced out of the office, I would be more lethal…if I come out on the streets, you would not even find a place to hide your faces,” the prime minister warned the opposition.

“He cannot answer from where he received Rs.16 billion and he cannot explain the telegraphic transfer (TT) scandal but is ready to deliver a 2-hour speech,” he said while referring to graft cases involving the opposition leader Sharif.

He maintained that he is ready to talk to everyone – even if their views differ from his – but he is never going to negotiate with the corrupt or allow them to benefit from the National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO).

Shehbaz Sharif demands PM Imran’s resignation

“If I negotiate with the corrupt opposition and give them NROs, then I will be deceiving the nation, as well as, my Allah,” he maintained.

About inflation, he said: “Inflation is the only problem which keeps me awake at night…the biggest challenge we face today is inflation and the rising prices of commodities”.

He called upon the masses to understand that inflation is a global phenomenon caused due to Covid-19 pandemic, from industrialised countries such as the US, the UK, to Europe and Japan, the entire world is faced with spiralling costs of living, a sharp increase in food prices, and a huge spike in energy prices.

He 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.

Citing the 5.37% gross domestic product (GDP) growth of the country despite the prevalence of the pandemic, he questioned the opposition, the critics, and the media as to how the country is progressing if there was complete economic turmoil.

“The construction sector is booming in the country and banks have received applications for housing loans worth Rs290 billion, while the government has already granted Rs140 billion to the applicants, which shows the public’s trust in the government’s policies,” he added.

He said that 45,000 housing units are under construction, while the private sector and building developers are constructing three million houses in their 342 projects.

Addressing the media of the country, the premier said that while it is the right of the media to criticise the government so that it could improve, it should refrain from resorting to propaganda and fake news.

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“Our government is against mafias, and unfortunately, some elements within the media have also sided with them to spread negativity,” he said.

Answering a question about high taxes on imported mobile phones, he said that his government is trying to manufacture everything within the country, saying that manufacturing goods within the country is the only solution as importing goods from abroad is very expensive.

“Even the clothes I am wearing are made in Pakistan. I don’t wear anything imported,” he said, adding that the government is trying to document the economy so that tax collection could be increased.

“If we want to be a progressing nation, we have to pay taxes,” he said.

The prime minister said that the PTI government will not only complete this tenure but it will also complete the next term.

Speaking about reports of PML-N supremo Nawaz Sharif’s return from London, the prime minister said that he is waiting for Nawaz to come back. “Please come back, we are waiting for you,” he declared.

“Nawaz Sharif floats rumours about cutting a deal to keep his party intact…the time of these people has ended,” he added.

“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 UK],” PM Khan added.

Speaking about the IMF package, he said the government wanted to document the economy through the ‘mini-budget’.

The PM said that 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, how will I have money to fix this country,” he exclaimed.

He said that 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 prime minister said that his government will be tweaking the country’s criminal justice system. “Fixing the justice system will fix the country,” he added.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2022

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