ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan addressing the nation, here Thursday.

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan on Thursday expressed his resolve to continue his struggle for justice, rule of law and purging the country of corruption till he is alive.
Addressing the nation on Thursday, the Prime Minister categorically said, “If I do not remain in power and sit on opposition benches, it does not make any difference to me. I will continue struggling for rule of law, and fighting these thieves and dacoits till I am alive.”
He added, “I will take out the public and will continue to face them. I believe this nation will turn into a great nation.”
He showed willingness to sit in the opposition if his party’s parliamentarians feel that he is incompetent. “All members [of PTI], this is your democratic right. If you feel I am incompetent, I will sit in the opposition,” the Prime Minister said.
In his message to the alliance of 11-party opposition Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM), the Prime Minister vowed not to spare anyone even if that means losing the premiership. “I am addressing the PDM right now, my message to them is that I will not spare any of you even if I lose power until you return the nation’s money.”
He said that the opposition wants to exert pressure on the government in order to get relief from corruption cases instituted against them by the previous governments. The Prime Minister vociferously stated that no NRO will be given to the corrupt elements despite their blackmailing. He said he is not afraid of losing power as he has no monetary interests.
Raising questions over the performance and responsibility of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP), the Premier said that the ECP had a major role to play during the Senate polls but questioned its request to hold the election via close ballot. “Your [ECP] major responsibility was transparency [during the Senate polls] but why did you ask for a close ballot?” the PM questioned.
Slamming the ECP for “damaging democracy in Pakistan”, the Prime Minister said that despite the Supreme Court’s suggestion, the election body could not bar code only 1,500 ballot papers.
He said if there had been an open ballot during the Senate elections, the PTI candidate would have emerged victorious on the Islamabad seat. “They [the opposition] staged the entire drama on Hafeez Shaikh,” Imran Khan said. He added that women candidates told him that Rs20 million were offered to them.
The Prime Minister said secret ballot has damaged democracy in the country. He said ECP could have employed the latest technology in order to know who were the turncoats in Senate elections.
He said the two bigger parties, naming PPP and PML-N, were in favour of a secret ballot so that they could buy the loyalties of members of parliament. He said his party also went to the Supreme Court of Pakistan for this purpose and the apex court directed the ECP to use all modern technology to ensure transparency in the elections.
While talking about his decision to come into politics, the PM said that he wanted to uphold the supremacy of law in the country as it had different laws for the poor and the rich. “I have spent 8-9 days in jail during the Musharraf rule. I could only see poor people in prison,” he added.
He also said that Pakistan was in a better position before 1985 but faced difficulties because of corruption. “When culprits are not arrested, the country faces a downward trajectory.”
Imran Khan said that when a prime minister of a country engages in looting and plundering, he puts a nation under debt. “Being a PM I can make billions from a project. I can even tell you how it is done. I can ask to increase the cost of a project. This is how wealth is plundered but in the end it is the masses who suffer,” he added.
Talking about the PEMRA’s ban on broadcasting former prime minister Nawaz Sharif’s speeches, he said that the PML-N supreme leader is a convicted criminal and a fugitive. “What is he? Is he Nelson Mandela?” he taunted.
He asked the nation whether they want to make a compromise with the “robbers”, saying what example as a nation “we were setting for future generations”.
“How will corruption end when Yousuf Raza Gilani and others get acceptance,” he added. He said that no government can end corruption on its own but “effort of the entire nation is needed”.
Imran Khan regretted that some media persons go for the defence of corrupt people in the courts.
Meanwhile Chief of the Army Staff (COAS) General Qamar Javed Bajwa called on Prime Minister (PM) Imran Khan at the Prime Minister’s office on Thursday.
Director-General Inter-Services Intelligence Lt. Gen. Faiz Hamid was also present in the meeting. Matters pertaining to national security were discussed during the meeting.
This was the fifth meeting between the civilian and military brass in 70 days. The crucial meeting comes amid political happenings in the country as the prime minister is likely to seek a vote of confidence from the National Assembly on Saturday to limit the opposition’s ability to challenge his government.
Prime Minister Khan decided to take a vote of confidence from the lower house of Parliament after the government coalition-backed candidate Dr Abdul Hafeez Shaikh lost a Senate seat from Islamabad to a joint candidate of the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM), former premier Yousuf Raza Gilani.
Prior to the meeting on Thursday, the military chief and Pakistan’s spymaster had last met the premier on February 1 in the federal capital to discuss security matters. Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa and Lt Gen Faiz Hamid called on the PM Imran Khan here to discuss matters related to security. A statement from the Prime Minister’s Office said the three leaders talked “matters pertaining to internal and external security” during the meeting.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Imran Khan has emphasised on taking full advantage of geographical location, economic assets and political relationships among member states of the Economic Cooperation Organisation (ECO) for achieving the common goals and priorities.
In his opening remarks at the 14th ECO summit held virtually on Thursday, the Prime Minister said that regional connectivity and integration have proven essential for growth and development.
He invited the world to tap the enormous economic opportunities available in the country, saying Pakistan can be the centre-point for economic development. “We have rich resources, enterprising people, and a human workforce, with a larger potential for the future,” the Premier said.
The Prime Minister said that enhanced physical structure will generate economic activity, trade, employment, mobility and cross border exchanges. Presenting his six-point plan for securing the common objectives of the ECO countries, the Prime Minister said, “We need to recover robustly from the economic and health crises induced by the Covid-19.”
He said, “We must adopt a plan to build resilient health care systems to respond to such crises in the future.” The Prime Minister said, “We must develop an integrated transport network to facilitate both intra-ECO trade and serve as a pathway for trade between major economies of the East and the West, North and South.”
He said Istanbul-Tehran-Islamabad commercial cargo train and proposed Uzbekistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan railway links are important regional connectivity projects. In addition, linking CPEC with Afghanistan and beyond is vital.
The Prime Minister said, “We must implement the cross-border projects already agreed under the ECO members, including TAPI gas pipeline and the CASA-1000, establishing an ECO investment agency and organising an annual ECO investment fair.” He said that trade among ECO member states, which is just eight percent of their total trade, could be expanded ten-fold.
He said, “To remain competitive, we must promote knowledge-based economies, which need enhanced research and development and focus on rapid digitalisation.”
He lauded Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the current chair, for his timely initiative amidst the Covid-19 scenario. The Prime Minister said the ECO member states are severely affected by the health, economic crisis unleashed by Covid-19 pandemic with over 150 million people hit by the virus and over 2.5 million lost their lives.
Imran Khan said that Pakistan faced challenges during the pandemic; however, it adopted a people and poor-centric approach to balance saving of lives and livelihoods. He said despite the financial constraints, his government allocated an unprecedented $8 billion for the poorest and most vulnerable households through small businesses and direct handouts.
He said the rich countries injected $20 trillion to their economies to stimulate growth, however, the developing countries do not have the capacity for fiscal space.
Earlier, the Premier opened the summit in Pakistan’s capacity as the Chair of the 13th Summit, held in Islamabad in March 2017 whereas President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is chairing the 14th Summit. The theme of the Summit is “Regional Economic Cooperation in the Aftermath of Covid-19.” – TLTP