This piece has been contributed by our featured writer Muneeb Khan.
Prime Minister Imran khan gave a detailed interview to a panel of journalists from different organizations, on several subjects of national standing, stretching from civil-military relations, anti-encroachment, national economy, accountability, to dialogue with Afghan Taliban.
When inquired about sudden devaluation of Pakistani rupee, the PM replied by saying that he came to know about devaluation from different news sources. This is hard to believe as government after its inception constituted a new monetary committee, then how could the Prime Minister be unaware of such bloodbath in stock market? He maintained that preceding government controlled the devaluation by spending extra money, and we are working on a new management system to control such devaluation in near future. Economists argued that the system is already existing, former finance minister, Ishaq Dar, used that system to control the devaluation of rupee. In the unawareness of the prime minister, people lost a lot of capital in just one day.
He further expressed that every single institution is in crises, and foreign reserves are draining, day by day, maintaining that his administration handled the initial issue of balance of payments very effectively. He expressed intentions to shape the economy after the Malaysian and Singapore model to revolutionize the institutions. Khan said China has reiterated its relations with Pakistan, by agreeing to provide financial help, despite concerns from IMF. On the other hand, Beijing recently expressed that it will provide different bailout packages to Pakistan, by investing in multiple sectors, instead of giving immediate loans
Speaking about business opportunities khan held that there are not many attractions for investors in Pakistan. Naya Pakistan’s government is working on the process of increasing the ease of doing business, by formulating one-window operation to address the issues of investors. He also added that government is focusing on creating a favorable environment for business. This is where the prime minister’s words are not in sync with the actions of the government. A stable political environment is very much needed to attract investment. Words like ‘Early Elections’ coming directly from the prime minister will not appeal investment. And an ambiguous political environment, encouraged by government actors, is what is repealing the investors. It is often argued by the opposition that PM IK himself is problematic, as he always highlights Pakistan’s dark face in hope to attract investment. Why any investor, despite knowing the ills, would invest in such place?
Talking about civil-military relations Khan maintained that the civilian government and the military are on the same page. Army is totally backing the government, moreover he said Army is totally supporting PTI’s manifesto; making the army open to criticism as the institution is supposed to maintains its neutrality. Ironically, opposition parties expressed the same concerns that this government is being backed up by undemocratic forces. When inquired about the missing persons issue, khan told the journalists, COAS Qamar Javed Bajwa has assured his assistance in this matter.
In response to Chief justice’s remarks in Zulfi Bukhari-a close aide of Imran Khan- appointment’s case, he argued that I have always discouraged nepotism, and strongly believe in non-interference. Surprisingly, the nation is witness to Azam Swati and DSP Rizwan Gondal case, in which there was direct involvement by government in order to favor the political elite and members of the PTI.
He further expressed his concerns regarding the behavior of bureaucracy, arguing that some of the old-minded bureaucrats are trying to sabotage anti-corruption campaign, trying to create an impression that government will fail.
Reinstating the importance of accountability, he expressed that it is not victimization, as opposition claims; instead, it is a step towards more prosperous Pakistan. On question of public accounts committee, Khan said how can Shahbaz Sharif, a person facing corruption charges, can be made the chairman of Public accounts committee. Interestingly, it is a parliamentary custom to appoint the leader of the opposition, as the realm of PAC is to examine the spending of the government. Opposition, in this matter, has boycotted all the standing committees, because Shahbaz Sharif was unanimously agreed by the opposition to be appointed as chairman PAC. Khan said opposition boycotting from all the standing committees is just to pressurize us to give them NRO.
He further bragged about the success of anti-encroachment campaign and informed the journalists regarding recovered land, worth millions. He said that the authorities were advised to only target the encroachment Mafia and not the poor. The credibility of this statement is in contrast to the actions by the government when it comes to Bani Gala and Azam Swati’s farm house. But even in Karachi, the fate of small scale businessmen looks bleak after government demolished decades old shops even those which had permits from the local authorities.
He also upheld his statement of taking U-turns that to achieve your goals, if necessary, change your strategy. But, Quaid’s picture, hanging behind him, ironically echoed ‘Think 100 times before you take a decision, but once that decision is taken, stand by it as one man.’
In the end, he informed the interviewers about the letter from the President of the United States, Donald Trump, and termed it as ‘very nice.’ Donald Trump asked for Pakistan’s help in negotiating with Afghan Taliban. PM Imran khan expressed intentions to do it for better and peaceful future.
This was the first interview given by the newly incumbent Prime minister after the elections.