ISLAMABAD, DEC 5 – Prime Minister Imran Khan on Saturday categorically stated that he will give up his office but will not give any (National Reconciliation Ordinance) to the opposition.
The premier made the comments while speaking to actor Hamza Ali Abbasi during an interview on HumNews that covered a myriad of topics, including his own spiritual journey and his thoughts on Western culture.
Commenting on the opposition, PM Imran said that the parties have been blackmailing the government since day one to grant them amnesty. He maintained that the NRO given to the opposition by former military ruler retired Gen Pervez Musharraf had had disastrous effects on the country, leading to an increase in debt liabilities.
“Our biggest problem is that we have debt and there is a deficit between what we earn and what we spend.” He added that the opposition wanted to be “forgiven”, but said that even Holy Prophet (peace be upon him) had said he would not forgive his daughter when it came to corruption.
“If I want to let them go, then I should open up our jails,” he said, adding that he would “give up his seat but not give [the opposition] and NRO”.
Commenting on the Pakistan Democratic Movement’s (PDM) upcoming rally in Lahore on December 13, the premier said that the government has decided to not grant them permission for staging the demonstration.
“Cases are increasing rapidly […] those putting up the sound systems and chairs, FIRs will be registered against them.” However, PM Imran made it clear that the government would not stop the opposition from participating in the rally.
“We will not stop them so that they can’t [act] dramatic and assume the role of revolutionaries [and] try to become Joan of Ark or Che Guevara.”
He maintained that the government had cancelled its rallies and public gatherings after the country witnessed an uptick in Covid-19 cases.
“We have once again started stressing on standard operating procedures (SOPs) for curbing the spread of the virus. But if this union of crooks thinks that this jalsa will put pressure on me, then they are wrong. No one has organised rallies as big as the PTI.”
He added that he will leave the office of prime minister but will never betray the country by giving relief to the opposition.
Development or lack thereof
When asked about the many issues being faced by Karachi, the premier said: “The situation with Karachi is very strange. Parties win votes from interior Sindh and come into power in the province. So they only focus their energies on the voter bank in interior Sindh and Karachi is left behind.”
He said that the federal government had announced the Karachi Transformation Plan to address the immediate issues being faced by the city and its residents.
“We don’t have the powers. The money from the federal government goes to the province and they decide where to spend it. But the transformation plan is exclusively for the city and all stakeholders are working on it together.”
He said that a permanent solution for cities such as Karachi would be a local government system. “Until it becomes a self-sustaining city, money allocated under the PDSP will never be enough”.
He added that the government was also working on addressing issues in other areas such as Balochistan and Gilgit-Baltistan. “We are working on giving provisional provincial status to GB,” he said, adding that the government was also spending money in Balochistan.
The premier also touched on the two biggest problems being faced by the country, namely fiscal debt and diminishing exports.
PM Imran said that unless we make people pay their taxes, we can never become a modern country. “We are among those nations that give the littlest amount in taxes”. He said that when the government checked the data of the country’s tax payers, it discovered that there are 2.5 crore people who don’t pay taxes.
He added that diminishing exports were another problem the country was facing. However, now the country’s trajectory was changing due to the efforts made by the government, he said.
“For the first time now after the 1960s, we are going towards industrialisation,” he said, adding that this was key to making the country stand on its own two feet.
“If we just fix our tourism sector, we can earn a significant amount. Our northern areas are Switzerland plus,” he said, adding that Pakistan has more religious tourism than Malaysia.
“You have no idea the resources this country has been blessed with. But the problem is that we don’t have any money so we have to carry out [joint ventures]”.
The point is that we have been blessed with so much; if we can harness this potential then we can go back to the development we witnessed in the 60s, he said.
Abbasi kicked off the interview by asking the premier about his spiritual journey.
Elaborating on his experiences, PM Imran explained that he has had the opportunity to live a different life, one which very few people have the chance to live.
“I started in cricket and went to England at 18. I also studied there and spent my winters in Pakistan. So my life experience is very different.” He said that it was the difference between the two cultures that he experienced that eventually brought about change.
“When I was growing up there was a strong colonial influence which revolved around ghulami,” he said, adding that this had an impact on his upbringing. “When I went to England I realised they are trying to produce replicas of the British which is something we can never be.
“I think my strength is that I always review my life. In cricket I used to breakdown my matches, to see where I went wrong. I couldn’t sleep until I did that. [And] I realised that Pakistan’s strength is that the people believe in God and the concept of an afterlife.”
He said that when he used to ask for donations for constructing the Shaukat Khanum Memorial Cancer Hospital, the common man used to reach into his pockets and give money. “I used to be surprised [but] they said they are doing it for the afterlife”.
While there are many positive aspects to Western culture, it was influenced by the ‘sex, drugs and rock and roll’ movement that impacted society and changed the focus of the youth, he said.
He added that a person always has two choices in front of them at any given moment. One is true happiness while the other is mere pleasure-seeking.
“This temporary happiness has diminishing returns. I thought I knew happiness as a cricketer but I understood the difference the moment Shaukat Khanum opened its doors.”
He stated that there is no greater role model than Holy Prophet (PBUH) and government was working on introducing a subject for teaching Seerat-un-Nabi to students of grade eight and matric.
He said Al-Qadir University, which will be completed next year. will promote research on the life and teachings of Holy Prophet (PBUH) as well as Sufism.
The premier also said that while the family system had collapsed in the West, their morality was better than ours.
“Here journalists go to the high court and ask for Nawaz to be given permission to for giving speeches,” he said, referring to a petition challenging the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority’s order against airing the former premier’s speeches.
He stole millions, has several cases in court and they call it freedom of speech, he said. “This is damaging our society. Corruption cannot be eradicated without accountability.”