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November 30, 2018

Reforms start rolling: PM

Top Story

November 30, 2018

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan, while addressing a ceremony marking the completion of first 100 days of his government on Thursday, said implementation of reforms has been started and foundations for a Naya Pakistan laid.

The prime minister took the nation into confidence regarding the PTI's 100 days in power at a ceremony held at the Jinnah Convention Centre in the federal capital. Imran Khan said the credit for the 100 days needs to be given to his wife Bushra Bibi.

“In the 100 days, I want to give credit to Bushra Begum. In these 100 days I took one day off and want to praise her for such a difficult life during the last 100 days,” the prime minister said.

The prime minister said that he was asked about the difference he saw in the 100 days. “When I watch TV at home and see some injustice and get angry, I turn to Bushra Begum and say look at this injustice to which she replies that you are the prime minister,” the premier said.

“After being in the opposition for 22 years, I need to be reminded that I am the prime minister,” he added. The premier expressed reservations on the performance of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) and said the conviction rate of the NAB cases was slightly over 6 percent, while in Malaysia, the ratio is above 90 percent. He said the NAB goes for plea-bargain in most of the cases.

Imran Khan in his extensive speech gave account of functioning of his government during the last hundred days and planned it has chalked out for all-round progress especially for uplifting of the downtrodden. The gathering was also addressed by federal ministers Shah Mehmood Qureshi, Asad Umar and Senator Faisal Javaid.

The prime minister reminded that the NAB is an independent institution for accountability and its performance can be further improved. He said the government was focused on carving policies for the people living below the poverty line and weak segments of the society. The premier maintained that his government is working to bring a uniform education system in the society for all. He said the government will also introduce health cards to benefit the masses.

Imran Khan said the health system needs to be revamped at the grass root level. “We should look no further than to follow the teachings of the Holy Prophet (PBUH),” he said.

“We need to create a society where justice prevails. Shelter homes and schemes are being introduced for the poor. Pakistan has all the resources, but owing to corruption the country has never been able to actualise its potential,” he said.

The premier reiterated that the country’s survival is linked to eliminating corruption. “We will seek details of Swiss bank accounts opened in the last few years as the mutual legal assistance agreement has been inked today only with the Swiss government,” he said.

The premier praised Chief Minister Punjab Usman Buzdar profusely for his performance. He said the government was devising policies for the benefit of the common man and reminded that good intentions reap good results and the government was sincere to bring real change in the lives of people. He said employment opportunities were being created to improve the living condition and standard of life for poor people.

Similarly, he said, reforms were also being made in the health sector. He said a task force was working to improve the condition of government hospitals so that poor people avail standard health facilities.

Imran Khan announced that a single authority would be created to devise and implement policies for poverty alleviation. He said corruption leads to poverty. The PM said the menace increases poverty in the countries as it deprives the nation of their due rights. He recalled that corruption-free countries were affluent and prospering, but the countries where corruption was rampant were living poor life despite resources. He cited the example of African countries Congo and Nigeria. He said there would be no future of the country, unless the scourge of corruption was eliminated.

The prime minister conducted foreign visits to meet the immediate financial needs of the country and got an overwhelming response. He said an Asset Recovery Unit was established at the Prime Minister House that signed MoUs with 26 countries for gaining access to information regarding the assets of Pakistanis abroad. “These countries had revealed that 11 billion dollars of Pakistanis were stashed abroad which was illegal money,” he said.

The premier said the information on bank accounts in the UAE indicates that one billion dollars of Pakistanis are hidden there. However, he said, the information of Iqama holders is not available. He said Iqama was used to hide the ill-gotten money. He said that Pakistanis invested $9 billion in properties in the UAE during the past few years. The prime minister said the FIA has so far caught fake accounts of Rs375 billion.

He said the PTI government was the first that was actively taking steps against money laundering. Imran said the government was paying Rs6 billion daily as interest on loan. He said land worth over Rs300 billion was retrieved by the Capital Development Authority (CDA) in its operations against encroachments. He said Punjab has recovered land of 88,000 acres from the encroachment mafia.

Referring to growth of stunted children, the PM said a pilot project was completed to improve the health of mothers and children and now four million mothers and children would be given better diet to reduce stunted growth from current 43 percent to 30 percent. He said the scope of BISP would be enhanced. He said Rs5 billion had been earmarked under Akhuwat Programme to assist the poorer segments. The Akhuwat is a fantastic programme that provides interest free loan to the poor.

The prime minister said that in order to bring the level of poverty down, special programmes were being started in rural areas. He said subsidies would be given to small farmers in order to increase agricultural productivity as well as improvement in socio-economic status of peasants. He said sophisticated and new farm equipment would be provided to the farmers. He said in order to enhance exports of livestock, animals would be immunised against diseases like foot and mouth so that Pakistan could export its meat to the countries where import of meat was permitted only from the countries which are free from animal diseases.

Imran Khan said the fisheries sector would be promoted. He said Pakistan has marine fishery as well as fresh water fishery potential. He said that the wet areas where lands cannot be utilised for agricultural purposes, shrimp farming businesses would be started. Referring to shortage of water in the country, the prime minister said total cost of paving the water courses was Rs140 billion. “This would result in conserving a lot of water and it would be equalling to water that would be stored in Bhasha Dam,” he said.

The prime minister said taxation system would be improved to increase revenue. He said only 72,000 persons had declared their monthly income above Rs200,000 monthly which is not a realistic figure. Imran reminded that there was a lot of potential in tourism sector. He said Pakistan was blessed with a long coastline and beaches can be developed there. He said Northern Areas had high mountain peaks which attract a large number of foreign tourists. He said more services and facilities will be created to enhance this sector. He said there was also a huge scope of religious tourism in the country. He said four to five tourist resorts will be developed each year in different parts of the country. He revealed that biggest statue of Buddha had been recovered near Hazara.

Regarding austerity measures, the prime minister said the KP governor helped save Rs13 billion of public expenditure. He said the austerity drive would be implemented across the federal and provincial governments to spend the money wisely.

The PM said there was a shortage of 10 million houses in the country. He said housing mortgage finance would be promoted in the country to enable people to construct homes. In May last, the PTI chief had unveiled a 100-day agenda ahead of the General Elections 2018. He said the policies adopted by his government in the first century of days in power were inspired by the state of Madina.

"In Madina, the Holy Prophet (PBUH) adopted policies that were based on compassion; all policies were made for the poor," he said, adding: "The tax system of Zakat was established where money was collected from the rich and redistributed to the downtrodden."

A major contributing factor to the "downtrodden" plight, the prime minister said, was corruption, and explained why he took a hardened stance against the practice. "The difference between developed and underdeveloped countries is corruption," he said.

The PM said the government strengthened the FIA to curb money laundering, signed agreements with 26 countries (to share information and recover assets), created a task force to improve the situation of government hospitals, recovered Rs350 billion worth of land as part of the anti-encroachment drive, lodged FIRs against bigwigs involved in power theft and allotted land to build shelters for poor people in Rawalpindi and Lahore.

Regarding water crisis, Imran Khan offered a "low-cost and quick" solution. "Bhasha Dam will take time as it's a huge project," he said, adding: "We found out that if we retain water in canals etc, it will conserve more water."

He labelled the "nationalisation of industries in the 1970s’ a wrong decision, stressing the importance of the creation of wealth in growing economies.

"Investments cannot come until investors make money," he explained. "People must be given a chance to make money as it leads to increased wealth."

The prime minister gave an overview of the planned legal forms for which he credited Law Minister Barrister Farogh Naseem. As part of the reforms, he said, "civil courts will have to decide cases within a year and a half".

"Legal aid authority will provide legal help to people who cannot afford to hire one," he added. The PM said that he "is aware that our salaried class is under pressure" due to inflation but assured that "I am doing whatever I can to (take you out of this problem)."

Imran Khan asserted that there would be no compromise on Pakistan’s sovereignty. “Kartarpur corridor initiative proves we are a peace loving country,” he said. Addressing the ceremony, Finance Minister Asad Umar said economic direction had been set during the first one hundred days of the incumbent government.

He said there was a deficit of Rs2,300 billion in budget when the PTI assumed power. He said the average deficit was $2 billion per month in three months prior to PTI coming to power and dedicated efforts were made to reduce it to a slightly over $1 billion per month. He said different steps helped improve the situation of balance of payments.

The finance minister said any agreement with the IMF would be made keeping in view the interest of the people of Pakistan and unlike the previous governments; we would not hide behind the IMF.

The minister used a cricketing analogy to describe his job, saying "I was sent in to bat when the ball was swinging and seaming both.” He added: “I get asked whether I am scared but I have not been unsure even for a single minute that the party manifesto will be implemented.”

“If we (sign a deal), we will do so on our terms, and we will not lie to the people even if the truth is bitter," he said.

The minister revealed that it was upon his advice that the prime minister reneged on his pledge to not travel abroad in the first 100 days. "I take credit for telling the prime minister that 'you will have taken a U-turn on your promise to not travel for 100 days because this was in favour of the country,'" he recalled. "So he agreed and toured different countries," he added.

Speaking on Pakistan's international relations, Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said Pakistan's case at global level was not heard before — something he said his ministry was trying to address.

"Our neighbour wanted to weaken Pakistan," he said, adding: "We could not present Pakistan’s case before the world because we did not have a lawyer. We decided that we would make our foreign office more interactive and started cultural diplomacy. We decided to take guidance and advice from former diplomats. We will also create a specialised foreign office, (and appoint) trained personnel.”

The foreign minister said in 100 days the government had 16 multilateral engagements. He said the first thing on the PTI government's foreign agenda was to have better relations with Afghanistan.

Qureshi also discussed Pakistan's bilateral relations with India, saying: "Tensions with India are not hidden from anyone but our approach is people-centric and we need peace for people to prosper. We need peace in order to speed up the development of our country.”

He reminded the audience that Imran Khan said he will take two steps for every single step India takes, but regretted that "they refused to engage even after the letter written to Narendra Modi.

Mohammad Shahzad Arbab, the PM's Adviser on Establishment, said: "I remember when we talked about the 100-day agenda, our friends had warned us that we were setting a trap and creating difficulties for ourselves.

He added: "I admit that they were right but we wanted to rise above political point scoring." The adviser reminded the audience that the PM's 100-day agenda was about setting the direction of the government.

Arbab claimed that the PTI government held regular cabinet meetings, adopted austerity and held itself accountable. "We have posted our performance on our website so people can give their feedback," he said.

Arbab gave an update on the KP-Fata merger, saying that the development plans for tribal areas are close to being finalised. The adviser termed Balochistan as "Pakistan's backbone" and assured that measures are being taken to end the province's "feeling of alienation".

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