Prime Minister Imran Khan on Sunday took questions from the general public live on air during a programme called “Aap Ka Wazir-e-Azam, Aap Kay Saath” during which he revealed that inflation was the only problem keeping him awake at night.
Answering a question about skyrocketing inflation, the premier explained that it was the only problem that “kept [him] awake at night”. However, he also stressed that the current inflation was a “global phenomenon”.
“When we came into government, we had to deal with a massive current account deficit […] due to this, the prices of imports soared drastically.
He said that the world was facing a supply shortage due to the coronavirus pandemic. “The US has spent $6,000 billion for the welfare of the people during the pandemic and we spent $8bn. We must compare the situation of both countries.”
He added that the United Kingdom was facing record inflation and the same was the case with other European countries.
He called on the media to keep a “balanced approach” when discussing inflation and to inform citizens of the situation across the world. “The pandemic is something that occurs once in a 100 years and has caused all countries to suffer.”
He noted that the salaried class was the most affected due to inflation in Pakistan. On the other hand, the income of labourers increased by 40-60 per cent while corporate profits had also soared.
‘Shehbaz is nation’s criminal’
During the Q&A session, the prime minister also turned his guns on Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly Shehbaz Sharif.
“I get called out for not meeting Shehbaz as he is the leader of the opposition. [But] I see him as the nation’s criminal,” he said, adding that the PML-N leader’s speeches often sounded like a “job application”.
PM Imran said that Shehbaz had still not provided answers in the Ramzan Sugar Mills case and appealed to the courts to decide the matter at the earliest by conducting daily hearings.
“Nations are not [just] destroyed by atom bombs. They can also be destroyed by doing away with ethics.”
Giving the example of Switzerland, he said that the country just had “cows and mountains” but was ranked among the top in the world due to ensuring rule of law.
He said that he was ready to speak to “anyone” but would not reconcile with criminals, stating that it would be akin to betraying the country.
Responding to a question about the opposition’s long march scheduled for March 23, the prime minister said that this had been going on for three years.
He said that the opposition was trying its best to gather people, but citizens were now “sensible” and would not take to the streets on their call.
He also issued a stern warning to the opposition, stating that he would be “more of a danger” to them once he is no longer in government. “If I take to the streets, then you won’t find any place to hide,” he said.
He predicted that the entire Sharif family would end up fleeing to London. In an indirect reference to former premier Nawaz Sharif, Imran said: “He will not come back. He loves money.”
He said rumours about “deals” would keep circulating, adding the time of such political parties was over.
Negotiations with opposition
PM Imran said that the opposition had been raising a hue and cry about the country suffering from day one, adding that he would not negotiate with them.
He said that former military ruler retired Gen Pervez Musharraf committed the “biggest sin” by granting NROs (National Reconciliation Ordinances) to the opposition.
“Half of the taxes we collect are spent on paying back debts incurred during their tenures.”
He said that the opposition wanted to blackmail the government, but said that it would be a “betrayal” if he ever granted them any concession.
Talking about the government’s performance, he said that the World Bank had estimated an increase of 5.37pc in Pakistan’s gross domestic product (GDP). He added that the government had also given incentives to businesses and the construction sector while crops had also witnessed record outputs.
The production of cars and motorcycles is also at an all-time high, he said, vowing that the government would exceed its tax collection target.
However, the premier called on the people and citizens to refrain from indulging in “propaganda and fake news” which are used to spread hopelessness in the country.
“This is done by mafias and our challenge is to confront this mafia. They fear accountability and they connive with the media to spread despair in society.”
One of the callers expressed the concern that while the government’s health card initiative was sorely needed, there was no awareness among the people in this regard.
Responding to the concerns, the premier said that the PTI faced several challenges when it came into power which were compounded due to the coronavirus pandemic.
He said that when a new government came into power in neighbouring Afghanistan, dollars started flowing out of the country which had a negative impact on the rupee.
“We have been told that we are incompetent. But the Economist magazine has rated us among the top countries that effectively tackled Covid-19. We will also come out of this inflation crisis,” he vowed.
In an apparent reference to former prime minister Nawaz, he said that there are certain people who go to London for medical treatment and are unaware of the suffering of the common man.
Every word reeks of failure: Maryam
Shortly after the programme finished, PML-N Vice President Maryam Nawaz took to Twitter to castigate the prime minister.
“Every word that Imran Khan uttered today reeks of failure, dashed hopes and no faith in his or PTI’s future. This was inevitable, man,” she said.
She added that this particular part of history would be “taught as a lesson of caution to those who rely more on conspiracy and plotting than the peoples’ power”.
“Your dashed hopes @ImranKhanPTI are a new hope for the incompetency and ineptitude-stricken people of Pakistan, who are waiting for you to spare them the four-year-long ordeal that has cost them their lives,” she added.