Islamabad: Prime Minister Imran Khan on Tuesday night addressed the nation and vowed to go after the “thieves who left the country badly in debt”.
The address followed a noisy budget session in the National Assembly and two major arrests — Leader of the Opposition in the Punjab Assembly Hamza Shehbaz by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) and MQM founder Altaf Hussain by London police — earlier in the day. On Monday, former president Asif Ali Zardari was also arrested by NAB.
The premier announced that after putting to rest the initial focus of the government to stabilise the economy, his attention would be more targeted towards bringing the ones to task who had caused the country to fall into such dire straits.
“Pakistan is stable now. That pressure [to stabilise the economy] has been relieved. Now I will go after them [the corrupt politicians],” declared the prime minister.
“I’m making a high-powered enquiry commission with a one-point agenda: how did they raise the debt to Rs24,000bn in 10 years?”
He said that the commission shall comprise the FIA (Federal Investigation Agency), IB (Intelligence Bureau), ISI (the Inter-services Intelligence Directorate), FBR (Federal Board of Revenue) and SECP (Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan).
“All those in power will be fully investigated by this commission which will prepare a report so that no one dare leave the country in tatters ever again.”
The premier said he could not be “blackmailed” with protests. “Even if my life goes, I will not leave these thieves alone. I had prayed to God to give me one chance — I will not leave them.”
“They were raising a hue and cry that the rupee has fallen. Were they not worried that if the economy is in such bad shape, they should help the new government trying to stabilise the economy.
“They tried their best to destabilise the economy. Three ambassadors expressed interest in making investments but remarked that there is no stability in the country.
“Were they not worried? I will tell you why. All their money is stashed abroad. The three big households only bring money to Pakistan when they need it.”
“When our rupee falls, their assets go up in value. Their interest is not aligned with the interest of Pakistan,” the premier added.
“For 22 years, I was saying our biggest problem is corruption. The people should know what happens when a corrupt leader comes. Their assets are all abroad, their Eids are abroad, their treatment is abroad […] a three-time prime minister whose sons are sitting abroad are saying we are not citizens [of Pakistan] and are not answerable.
“They didn’t make one hospital where the Sharifs could seek treatment.”
The premier started his address by speaking about Riyasat-i-Madina. “My naya [new] Pakistan will be based on Riyasat-i-Madina. Remember my words: Pakistan will be a great nation.
“They say Riyasat-i-Madina is a 1400-year-old model […] it was a modern state,” he said. “Minorities were part and parcel of the state, everyone was equal in the eyes of the law.”
“Ever since we came into power, I hear [the question]: ‘where is the new Pakistan?’
“The state of Madina wasn’t this way from day one […] there was a process in turning it into a welfare state.”
Turning to the recent arrests of the bigwigs, Prime Minister Imran said: “I am grateful to Allah, the big figures who are now jailed, no one could have imagined [it could be done].
“The judiciary is free today. The NAB chairman is not ours […] we didn’t appoint anyone. This is the new Pakistan and you will slowly see the independence in institutions.
“The NAB cases are old. I didn’t start them. We weren’t in power when Panama or the case against Shehbaz Sharif was started.
“So why are they [opposition] raising a hue and cry since day one?
“My mistake is I didn’t cave under pressure and give them an NRO [National Reconciliation Ordinance]. The country fell into debt because of two NROs.
“People are crying that Sharif and Zardari have been jailed […] both of them used to call each other corrupt. Mian Nawaz Sharif jailed Zardari twice during his two tenures.
“The problem we [PTI] are facing is how to run the government — this is the price we are paying for the NROs.”
The prime minister added that they [Nawaz and Zardari] came to an agreement that each would rule for five years and “not say anything to each other”.
“The debt from Rs6,000bn has ballooned to Rs30,000bn. What happened [to the money that was borrowed]? Were dams built? What was done in Pakistan? What happened that the debt got out of control?
“These three households saw their wealth rise. After 2008, the debt has risen; the biggest reason was corruption.
“When the debt was increasing, their wealth rose by 85pc.
“A woman who was caught at the airport carrying $500,000, hers and Bilawal Bhutto Zardari’s money are being channelled through the same fake account,” the premier said. “The leaders of the state were doing all this money laundering, but who would stop who?”
The address, which was earlier slated for 9:15pm, was moved to 10:30pm but started a little before midnight.