Berating Imran Khan over violating apex court's orders during 'Azadi March', PM Shahbaz asks if there is any room for 'anarchy' in country
ISLAMABAD: Reacting to the demands of PTI Chairman Imran Khan, Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif on Thursday said that the National Assembly will decide a date for the next general elections in the country.
The prime minister made the remarks while addressing the National Assembly, convened by President Arif Alvi to deliberate over the current economic situation of the country.
Slamming Imran Khan for violating the apex court's orders during the 'Azadi March', PM Shahbaz Sharif asked if there is any room for "fitna, fasad and anarchy" in the country.
He ruled out the notion of receiving "dictation" from PTI Chairman Imran Khan.
Although the prime minister said he "refuses to be dictated" during his hard-hitting speech in NA, he did not rule out holding talks with the PTI after the party's long march and rallies across the country — ones that led to chaos and compelled the government to summon the army in Islamabad.
Addressing the lower house hours after the PTI chairman issued a six-day ultimatum to announce a date for the elections, the prime minister said holding talks is the ultimate weapon of politicians. "The doors for talks are open; I can form a committee."
He said that when the incumbent govt took office, it had two targets at hand: holding free and fair elections and reviving the drowning economy of Pakistan.
Shedding light on the current situation in the country, PM Shehbaz said that politicians should hold negotiations with patience as he criticised the PTI's "Azadi March".
The premier said the PTI chairman is repeating the same mistake that he committed back in 2014, adding that a policeman was martyred and the same happened in 2014 with the police personnel who were performing their duties.
The prime minister said the law enforcement agencies (LEAs) worked to stop the "unconstitutional" and "bloody" marches as he referred to the events that transpired a day prior.
He berated the PTI for sprinkling salt on the wounds of the family of the police constable who was martyred in the line of duty — as the police raided the house of a PTI leader in Lahore.
"They sprinkled salt on the wounds, can there be any crueller than this?"
The prime minister prayed for the forgiveness of the policeman and announced a package for the LEAs' personnel who sustained injuries during Thursday's clashes.
Moving on, PM Shehbaz then slammed Kyber Pakhtunkhwa Chief Minister Mahmood Khan for being involved in the PTI's long march to Islamabad, asking when, in the history of Pakistan, has the machinery of a province used to launch an attack on the federation?
"Has a province ever led an attack on the Centre? A province's chief minister helped attack the Centre," the prime minister asked while lamenting over the situation.
The premier said the trees that were burnt and the metro was damaged in Islamabad, but noted that the incumbent government would work for development no matter how many times PTI "burns" things.
"Are we moving towards anarchy or development? Will we choose the path for Pakistan's development or for the country's destruction?" the prime minister said.
PM Shehbaz said that weapons were brought to Islamabad from Lahore and trees were burned during the protest. "The one who talks about the Billion Tree Project set the trees on fire."
The prime minister said although there were challenges, the government would work to address and resolve them, adding that he would "fight for Pakistan's progress to the best of his ability."
The prime minister also criticised the slogans used by PTI during the long march and asked: "They were chanting about jihad in Peshawar. Who exactly were they waging jihad against?"
The premier said the National Assembly would not allow the usage of religion to gain personal means. He took a dig at Khan and claimed that the PTI chairman was the "enemy" of the people.
Talking about Pakistan's economy, PM Shehbaz said that governments in Pakistan always make economic plans but failed to implement them.
He, however, said that Pakistan was ahead of India in terms of economic progress. "Pakistan's economy was made independent back in the 1990s and India copied us," he said, adding that South Korea stole Pakistan's school plan and implemented it.
The prime minister said that the Pakistani rupee was worth more than the Indian rupee in the 90s, however, the latter's tea industry earned more than $200 billion.
The prime minister said when his government came into power they had two targets — fixing the economy and holding transparent polls.
It is noteworthy that the International Monetary Fund (IMF) a day earlier delayed the revival of the stalled $6-billion programme under the External Financing Facility (EFF) for Pakistan.