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PM Imran Khan most popular leader, to form next govt: Fawad Chaudhry

ISLAMABAD: Federal Minister for Information and Broadcasting Fawad Chaudhry Friday said Prime Minister Imran Khan was the most popular leader in Pakistan and he would again form government in the next polls.

He said this while speaking in the BBC’s ‘Hard Talk’ programme. Fawad brushed aside reports of bad economic situation and emphasised that the people, who had voted Imran Khan to power were still his ardent lovers.

Replying to a question, he made it clear to the host not to undermine the PTI’s elected government, as the prime minister had received millions of votes in the last general elections.

He also emphasized that Imran Khan was the prime minister of a nuclear state and that he and the cabinet took collective decisions on all issues. “The government has due respect for the opinion of institutions but the decisions rest with the prime minister,” the minister maintained.

Contrary to what the host said about the national economy, Fawad shared the government’s achievements and said at present the country’s growth rate was 3.94 percent despite the COVID-19 crisis.

“About Rs1,100 billion has shifted from the urban economy to the rural economy. And, this year, Pakistan has got four bumper crops, whereas a record number of tractors has been purchased by the farmers,” he said.

The information minister said Pakistan’s response to COVID-19 had been one of the best in the world, and in this connection he quoted the remarks of the United Nations General Assembly President, “Pakistan has been a good example for the world with its pandemic related policies; Pakistan has done better than any other country”.

The minister contended that the UNGA president’s words spoke volumes for the government’s successful strategy to deal with the COVID-19 situation. To another question, the minister said 5.5 million people had been vaccinated countrywide so far.

“Pakistan is among the top 34 countries in terms of vaccinating the people. The way we are going, we will achieve the targets of vaccination soon,” he believed. He reiterated that Pakistan was a great success story as far as dealing with the pandemic was concerned and that the partial lockdown strategy worked well, as in Pakistan, the situation was far better than any other country in the region.

To another question, the minister said the media in Pakistan enjoyed immense freedom, as freedom of expression was a fundamental and democratic right guaranteed in the Constitution of Pakistan.

He said, “Pakistan is one of the freest states as far as the media is concerned. There are about 43 international channels, including BBC; 112 local private channels; 258 FM channels; and 1,569 print publications. In the presence of such kind of huge mass media, how could the state be accused of intimidating the media?”

About stopping a local channel (Aaj TV) from airing a BBC programme, Fawad said the BBC was the most-watched international channel in Pakistan and the government had never obstructed its transmission. The BBC Urdu would be allowed to telecast its programmes subject to following the local laws.

Responding to a question with regard to an attack on journalist Asad Toor, the minister said he had immediately taken cognizance of the matter. He said a senior police officer was investigating the incident and those responsible would be apprehended. He said there was no justification for accusing any institution (of attacks) without cogent evidence.

“Such individual incidents do happen everywhere in the world; Pakistan is no exception,” he added. “I know there has been history of people using names of intelligence agencies to get immigration also. It is bit fashionable for the Western media that you accuse ISI of every type of incidents,” he remarked.

The minister also contested the host’s claim of deteriorating situation for journalists. He added the situation for journalists was not dangerous and that it was dangerous for everyone when Pakistan was fighting the war on terrorism, including journalists.

To another query, he said Pakistan had been fighting terrorism as a frontline state “A number of people have lost their lives in the war on terror. This is not something limited to journalists; former prime minister Benazir Bhutto was also martyred in a terrorist attack. About 70,000 people have died in the war against terrorism,” the minister added.

However, the incidents of attacking journalists, he said, had reduced after the government assumed responsibilities under the leadership of Prime Minister Imran Khan. Fawad rejected the impression that laws had been passed in Pakistan to curb the social media freedom.

“Hate speech is a universally recognized fact that has to be curbed; all the states and organizations are bound not to allow it,” he contended. Fawad said he had huge respect for the Google, Facebook and other technology companies.

“I want them to come to Pakistan to open their offices. We want to do business with them. We acknowledge their contribution to the world”. He also made it clear that being the minister of the 5th largest country in the world, he had full authority to take decisions about the related affairs.