Prime Minister Imran Khan yesterday said his government would not interrupt the public gatherings of the opposition Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM), but warned legal action would be taken against organisers and facilitators as they were endangering lives of people in the face of a sharp spike in coronavirus cases and deaths.
During an interview with Hum News, a private television, the PM reiterated that he could leave office but would not give the “looters and plunderers” an “NRO” — or National Reconciliation Order — a term which has gained currency in the Pakistani political lexicon over the last decade or so to signify a free pass over corruption.
“Whenever they (key opposition parties like the Pakistan Muslim League - N and Pakistan People’s Party), talked they tried to blackmail the government over their corruption cases as happened during Financial Action Task Force (FATF) legislation in parliament,” the prime minister said.
The Financial Action Task Force is an intergovernmental organisation founded in 1989 on the initiative of the G7 to develop policies to combat money laundering and terror financing. Pakistan is currently in the grey list and required to fulfil certain obligations to move out of the list.
“I can leave my office, but cannot think of committing any treason with the country’ Khan stressed.
To a question, he said the PDM leaders were holding their next public gathering in Lahore where the Covid-19 cases were sharply rising, with dozens of deaths.
He said the government would not provide an opportunity to this ‘union of crooks’ to create political drama but strict action would be taken against the organisers who broke the laws.
The prime minister said the government had decided against holding of public gatherings after an exponential rise in coronavirus cases.
“We had given clear SOPs. Ulema (religious scholars) have been engaged whereas schools were also closed,” he maintained.
Khan recalled that from his first day in power, the opposition wanted to blackmail his government by linking the (meeting of international commitments with regard to) FATF legislation with an NRO.
“They brought 34 changes in National Accountability Bureau’s law which amounted to burying of the anti-graft law,” he added.
For the last, 30 years, these two parties (PML-N and PPP) remained in power and framed cases against each other, he said, adding General (retired) Pervez Musharraf gave them an NRO, recalling how Swiss (corruption) cases were dropped against the PPP co-chairman Asif Ali Zardrai even after spending billions of rupees in prosecution of these graft cases.
Musharraf, who was president back then, had settled for the NRO in exchange for the PPP support to ensure another term in office for himself.
“The country’s debt surged from Rs6,000 billion in 2008 to whopping Rs30,000 billion in 10 years. Musharraf gave them NROs to save his office,” he said.
To a question, the prime minister said there should be no two different sets of law for the powerful and the common people.
About his cases in the Supreme Court, he said he had submitted replies with all the required documents and money trail but on the other hand, these (past) corrupt rulers failed to even provide a single document to justify the amassing of ill-gotten wealth.
About his vision of Naya (new) Pakistan, the prime minister said that he wanted the country to stand on its feet as it was blessed with huge potential and resources.
About uniform curriculum in the country, he credited Minister for Federal Education Shafqat Mahmood for developing a consensus for such a system.
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