In a fiery riposte to the opposition alliance that is campaigning to oust his government, Prime Minister Imran Khan yesterday promised to unleash a “new Imran Khan”, saying he would try his best to bring back “fugitive” former prime minister Nawaz Sharif from London and have him put in an ordinary jail without the luxury of “VVIP” airs.
Addressing a convention of ‘Tiger Force’ — a volunteer youth force set up by the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) to participate in nation-building — he termed the opposition Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM)’s October 16 rally in Gujranwala Friday night a “circus”, saying the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) supremo, who fled abroad by deceiving the government, is targeting the military and state institutions to create chaos in the country.
He alleged Sharif could sell the country for his own gains, reminding that he had spoken against the country’s army chief and DG Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI).
Sharif accused the security establishment of being behind his ouster as prime minister and for “bringing Imran Khan into power”. He attacked the army and ISI chiefs by name during an address at the PDM’s first power show in Gujranwala though a video link.
The remarks come less than a month after the army and ISI chiefs in a meeting with key opposition figures had counselled them to refrain from “dragging the military into political issues”.
Sharif questioned “who made the state above a state and who was responsible for the two governments in this country, among other things” before blaming the two security chiefs by name.
This wasn’t the first time Sharif had gone after the military leadership; during the opposition’s multiparty conference last month, he had bitterly criticised it, saying there was “a state above the state in the country”. However, he had refrained from naming anyone then.
In his rejoinder, Prime Minister Khan without naming, said both (PML-N vice president) Maryam Nawaz and (Pakistan People’s Party chairman) Bilawal Bhutto had never earned a penny with hard work.
“I had already predicted 11 years ago that they would all come together. You saw that they all came together in the PDM public meeting,” the premier recalled.
Taking a swipe at the two (Maryam is Sharif’s daughter and Bilawal son of former president Asif Zardari), the PM said both of them grew up on the illicit earnings of their respective fathers, so it is useless to comment on them. “No-one in Bollywood can act like Bilawal and Maryam,” he chided.
He underlined that the Tiger Force had an important role to play and had helped district administrations in dealing with crisis situations.
Earlier this year, a month after Pakistan confirmed its first coronavirus case, the PM launched the ‘Prime Minister’s Covid-19 Relief Tigers Force,’ popularly known as the Tiger Force, which enlisted young volunteers from across the country to help combat coronavirus.
However, the scope of the force has been widened since it was formed and volunteers are now helping with various other government projects. These include a tree plantation drive, a waste management project and Pakistan’s fight against the country’s worst locust invasion in over 25 years.
The volunteers, which included men and women, had registered through a government app, and are working in different areas around the country in coordination with local administrations.
The volunteers have helped district administrations implement coronavirus standard operating procedures like social distancing in mosques and public places, distributed food and other essentials among the poor.
“I need Tiger Force to keep a check on hoarding, but volunteers need not interfere in official matters, rather they will just have to report any hoarding on the forces’ portal,” he advised.
“The volunteer force has a high stature in society, because you have to protect the rights of our citizens. This is a big role in a democracy: Tigers, you have a big role. Pakistanis are a nation who stand for their country,” he said.
Regarding inflation and rise in prices of essential commodities, the PM said there were many reasons for rise in prices.
“There was a shortfall in wheat because in the last two years it rained at an inopportune time due to climate change,” he said.
“I have called you today because there is inflation in our country and there are many reasons for it. The rupee has fallen against the dollar because when we got the government, we had the largest trade deficit (in the country’s history).”
“There was a $40 billion trade deficit. When the rupee falls, whatever we buy from outside, the price of it increases — such as gas, petrol and electricity — all of this increases.
Referring again to the irregular rainfall, which he had blamed for the wheat shortage, the PM said, “It rained when the wheat was supposed to be thrashed. That decreased the supply of wheat, and we saw a deficit. We needed 7.2 million tonnes of wheat. When there was a deficit, the price of wheat increased.”
“We found out about the shortage late, because the systems we had were not right. We reduced that deficit by importing [wheat].”
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