Prime Minister Imran Khan’s inaugural address to the nation since being elected the country’s new premier is being broadcast by Pakistan Television.
The address began following the recitation from Holy Quran and the playing of the national anthem.
PM Khan first thanked those who stood by him in his political struggle, saying: “I want to thank all my supporters who have been with me on this journey for the last 22 years. I did not want to pursue politics as a career, but as a means to make this country what it should have been.
“I salute all those workers who have stood by me in the most difficult of times. Who bore ridicule to support me … I could not have been here without you.”
The prime minister identified Pakistan’s economic challenges and how he would fix them. “Never in Pakistan’s history have we faced such difficult economic circumstances,” he said. “Our debt burden is Rs28 trillion. We haven’t been as indebted in our entire history as we have been in the last ten years.
“We will bring this money back. That is, God willing, what we are here to do.”
“The interest that we have to pay on our debt has reached a level that we have to take on more debt just to repay our obligations.
“Our external debt obligations have reached a level that we have to contemplate how we are going to grapple with them.
“On one hand we are so indebted, and on the other hand our human development index ranking is in the doldrums.”
Next, PM Khan outlined the deficiencies in the healthcare sector, saying: “We are unfortunately among the five countries where infant mortality due to unclean water resources is highest.
“We have the highest rates of mortality for pregnant women. We are unfortunately one of the countries that suffer from the highest incidences of stunting in children. I have been saying this for ages and nobody took me seriously. We are talking about 45 per cent of this nation’s children.
“They are not getting proper nutrition. They are not developing properly. They are automatically left behind. What must their parents go through seeing their children in such a state?”
“We have two paths ahead of us: one is the path we have taken so far — indebtedness, poverty, no funds to help our most vulnerable. The other path is what I wish to speak out about today.”
Khan pointed to the difference between the growing lifestyles of the rich and the poor, and hinted that he would adopt an austere style of governance.
“I want to speak about how the rich and powerful live in this country,” he said. “The prime minister has 524 servants and 80 cars. The prime minister, which is me, also has 33 bulletproof cars. We have helicopters and aeroplanes to fly us. We have massive governor houses and every conceivable luxury.
“On one hand we don’t have money to spend on our people; on the other hand, we have a section of our people living like our colonial masters used to live.
“Look at how we live. Look at how much money is spent by prime ministers on foreign tours? Where do these people spend Rs650 million? Where does the speaker spend the Rs160m budget alloted to him? Are they going abroad to conquer land?”
“God says that I do not change the destiny of those who do not wish to change themselves. We need to pay heed.”
“We need to be compassionate towards our compatriots: to those who cannot afford to eat twice a day. We need to ask what will happen to the 25 million children out of school. We need to ask what happens to our population. We need to ask how we are to grapple with climate change.
“This is the time that we decide to change our destiny.”
The prime minster said he will use the governance style used by the Holy Prophet to bring the nation out of its plight.
“What did the Holy Prophet do to unite all the tribes living in the Arabian peninsula?” he said. “What did he do to mould them into one of the most powerful nations on earth? I want to speak on those principles today. I want to speak about how we are going to lift ourselves based on that model.
The prime minster gave a five-point agenda:
“The first thing is the supremacy of law,” he said. “The law has to be the same for everyone.”
“The second thing is Zakat. What does Zakat mean? It means that I spend based on what I have on those who do not have enough. This is called progressive taxation. The rich pay more to subsidize the poor. There is good healthcare, good education and justice for all. The disabled, the orphans and widows have support.
“The third is compassion. In the west, they care for animals in ways that would put us to shame. Animals fare better there than humans do here. We need to incorporate those lessons.
“The fourth is merit. Without merit you cannot do anything. The responsibilities of the ruler entail that they are sadiq and ameen. They have to be truthful people. There can be no conflict of interest. The west has these laws: in our country, you see people amassing untold riches in their tenure in power.
“The fifth is education. The Holy Prophet stressed education above everything else. After the Battle of Badr, he made it incumbent on his people to attain an education. Look at us today: we are nowhere because we have not followed his instructions.”
“You should not feel overwhelmed. We are in this together and we will find a way out together. This is not why this country was formed. This country was formed as a model for the State of Medina.”
Measures to cut down on expenses
PM Khan detailed how he plans on cutting down his own as well the country’s expenditure, saying: “I will keep two people with me out of the 524. I will be staying in a three-bedroom house. I will have to keep two of the cars because my intelligence agencies tell me my life is under threat. I wish I did not have to move out of Bani Gala, but I have been forced to do so.
“We will be auctioning off all the other bullet proof cars. I invite businesses to come and buy them. We will put the proceeds of that auction in the state treasury.
“I wish that all the governor houses are kept as simply as possible. I also wish that the PM House will be turned into a university. It is in a great location to be one.
“I am forming a committee under Dr Ishrat Husain to figure out how to cut expenses nationwide. I also want you to understand that the money we lavish on ourselves could have been spent on those who our state has left behind. Naya Pakistan also requires a new soch. We have to think about those who we have left behind.”
Tax reforms instead of loans: Khan
Khan explained that instead of trying to rebuild the economy via external loans, his government will try and fulfill its needs from within.
“No country can succeed by taking on debt again and again,” he said. “Debts are taken for brief periods of time. We cannot go on the way we have. And you need to realise that when these people give us money, they attach conditions to it.
“I will be ashamed to go abroad and ask for money. If the leader of the nation has to go and ask for debt, what will my nation be?
“We also need to pay our taxes. I am going to fix FBR on a priority basis. It has lost its credibility and that is why people don’t pay taxes. I will promise my people that I will protect your tax money and spend it on you. We will keep our end of the bargain, but I want you to pay your taxes too. That is your responsibility. Pay your taxes so that we can lift our destitute out of poverty.
“I promise you, if I can assure you that your tax money will be spent on you, we will not face these deficits in the future. God willing, this will not happen again.”
“We are also creating a task force to repatriate wealth looted from this country. We need to put an end to money laundering. It is our biggest problem right now.
“We also need to boost our exports. How will that happen? We will need to help export industries. We have made a business advisory council to help address their challenges.
“Then we need to boost investment. We need to bring in money from abroad. There is going to be an office in the prime minister’s secretariat dedicated to this purpose.
“We need to help our small and medium businesses. They are the backbone of our economy. We need to reduce the cost and difficulties of doing business for them.”
Message to overseas Pakistanis
PM Khan invited overseas Pakistanis to come back and invest in the country, saying: “We need to facilitate overseas Pakistanis. Our embassies need to facilitate them in every way we can.
“I have a special message for overseas Pakistanis. We are trying our best to create a good investment environment for you. We want that you bring your money to Pakistan and park it in Pakistani banks.
“We are short of foreign exchange, and I hope you will park your money in Pakistani bank accounts. Send your money through official accounts. We need your help and I hope you will help us.”
Rooting out corruption
The prime minister said that rooting out corruption will also be a high priority for his government.
“I will meet the NAB chairman and facilitate him with whatever he needs,” he said. “We will also enact a law for whistleblowers like we did in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Whoever helps identify corruption will get a share of the money that we recover. The SECP will be fixed on a priority basis. The FIA will also be fixed.
“I have kept the FIA and the interior ministry under me because I want to personally oversee our efforts to eradicate corruption.
“I want you all to understand that the moment we start going after corrupt people, they will start raising a hue and cry. They are everywhere. They will come out on the streets. They will say that democracy is in danger. I want you all to continue standing with me. We will save this country or these corrupt people will save themselves.”
Revamping the judiciary
PM Khan said that he will seek Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar’s help to revamp the judicial system.
“The next focus will be on revamping our judiciary,” he said. “We have a massive backlog of cases. We will sit with the chief justice and discuss how we can ensure that cases can be wrapped up within a year. We have to do this for our people.
“I want to make a special request to the chief justice. There are quite a few widowers who have approached me for help. They are embroiled in property disputes. I want to request the chief justice: please, at least for widowers, resolve such cases at the earliest.
“I declare this as my resolve: the weak who are systematically discriminated against in our country will always have my support.”
KP police model to be implemented in Punjab
The prime minister said he has asked former KP IG Nasir Khan Durrani to implement the KP police model in Punjab.
“We also need to fix our police,” Khan said. “The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa police is our biggest success. We won the election because of how good our police had become. The former IG who oversaw those successes, Nasir Khan Durrani, has been asked to help fix the Punjab police and he has agreed.
“We do not have the power to do so in Sindh, but we will work with the Sindh government as well to do what we can.”
The prime minister said his focus will be to improve public sector education as well as madressahs (seminaries).
“We also need to fix our education system,” he said. “We need to focus on government schools, which are in a shambles. I know that salaried individuals are making huge sacrifices to make sure their children get a decent education. They sometimes work two jobs to give their children the best they can.
“We therefore need to make sure our government schools are good enough that everyone can send their children to them. This is an emergency.”
“We also cannot leave madressah students behind. They too should become engineers and doctors and generals. Why do we not give them the opportunity? We need to do it.”
PM Khan stressed the need to “fix the healthcare system. It is immensely difficult to fix the pre-existing system. It takes a long time: the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa health system did not start showing results till the fifth year. But we still need to do it.
“We also need to introduce the health card all over Pakistan. We have given every household in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Rs550,000 in case of a healthcare emergency. We should give it all over Pakistan.” Courtesy Dawn.com