Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif said on Tuesday that the staff-level agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) would be reached within a few days as the government accepted the global lender’s “toughest” conditions.
In an interview with a private television channel, Shehbaz spoke at length on multiple national issues, such as the economic situation, elections, Toshakhana record, party matters as well as investigation into the murder of journalist Arshad Sharif.
PM Shehbaz emphasized that the government’s economic team and other national institutions were working together to secure a deal with the lender for the restoration of the bailout package. Shehbaz stated while discussing the status of talks with the IMF.
Shehbaz said that at the time of assuming office, he was unaware of the conditions that his predecessor, former prime minister and PTI Chairman Imran Khan, had agreed with the IMF.
He added that after agreeing Imran later backed out of those conditions thus undermining Pakistan in the whole world as well as among the international financial institutions. he admitted that the IMF conditions had burdened the people.
“This is why the IMF is making us accept those conditionalities and seeking their implementation. No doubt, these conditions have burdened the common man,” he said, adding that the government took measures to reduce people’s problems.
Shehbaz also spoke of imported inflation caused by the Ukraine war that increased fertiliser and oil prices and the floods that affected the national economy. He slammed Imran for “shameful” lies about regime change by the US that created uncertainty.
Responding to a question, the PM shahbaz told the interviewer that friendly countries like China were supporting Pakistan despite the fact that Imran had damaged the brotherly ties with them.
Read more: Government slowly approaches IMF deal
Recounting the baseless allegations levelled by the PTI leadership against him in local TV channels as well the Britain’s Daily Mail, PM Shahbaz said the newspaper apologised and the UK’s National Crime Agency (NCA) exonerated him from all the charges.
Asked about the ongoing police attempts to arrest Imran, the prime minister said that the PTI chairman had been avoiding the arrest on the excuse of illness or injuries. National institutions granted him relief every time, despite his use of foul language against them.
“He [Imran] is wanted by the courts, and not by me. The arrest warrants are issued by the courts, not by me or the administration. Now what will happen if the administration does not abide by the court orders?” he questioned.
The PM clarified that citizens, not him, registered the approximately 80 cases against Imran. He emphasized that the law would proceed according to its course.
He recalled that the PTI government had falsely implicated the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) leadership, including himself, Nawaz Sharif, Maryam Nawaz, Hamza Shahbaz, Khawaja Asif, and Rana Sanaullah in cases and subjected them to inhumane treatment in jails.
When asked about the implementation of the Supreme Court verdict for holding the elections of the Punjab and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) assemblies, Shehbaz said that it was for the Election Commission of Pakistan to hold the elections.
“No political party can escape elections,” he said. Being the PML-N president, he added, he had already asked the party men to submit their applications for the party tickets to contest the elections for which he was also interviewing the candidates.
To substantiate his point on the government’s seriousness towards elections, the Prime Minister stated that the government was conducting a fresh census to address the reservations of some political parties, especially in Sindh, and that the government was spending billions of rupees on the exercise.
In accordance with a federal cabinet decision and a ruling of the Lahore High Court (LHC), the Prime Minister made the record of Toshakhana (the state repository of gifts received by the country’s leadership) public.
The prime minister emphasised that retaining gifts by paying a specified amount was a legal process but Imran Khan sold a precious watch, gifted by a brotherly country, in Dubai. “He committed a criminal act of getting a fake receipt from a local merchant.”
Shehbaz rubbished the notion of any differences within the party and explained that PML-N Chief Organiser Maryam Nawaz had earned the office through her tireless struggle even when Nawaz Sharif was in jail.
He said that the conventions addressed by Maryam Nawaz were providing new energy to the party and building a narrative, expressing his confidence that the party would become stronger soon as its leader, Nawaz Sharif, would return with the permission of his doctors.
Regarding the appointment of the army chief last year, the prime minister stated that he had appointed Gen Asim Munir to the top military post for being the most-senior officer and having an excellent career.
The prime minister told the interviewer that while appointing the army chief, the “government banked upon the existing law”. He thanked the coalition parties for backing him in taking the decision.
Arshad Sharif’s murder:
Asked about any progress in the investigation into the murder of journalist Arshad Sharif, Shehbaz said he had talked to the Kenyan president twice, adding that their last conversation took place about three weeks ago.
He added that he asked the Kenyan president to provide their investigation report, which was also being sought by the Supreme Court. The Kenyan leader, he said, had agreed and assured him of extending maximum support in that regard.
Calling Sharif’s murder a “brutal murder”, Prime Minister Shehbaz said that the government was making all-out efforts and would not sit idle until the bereaved family got justice.
Shehbaz declined the offer of premiership before the 2018 elections, according to his statement.He said that he could not backstab his brother Nawaz Sharif, who made Pakistan’s defence impregnable by carrying out nuclear explosions and brought in an investment of around $30-35 billion through the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).
Published on Logical Baat, March 15, 2023.