No threat to govt, Zardari is going to jail, Imran says


–PM says PPP’s efforts to oust govt won’t succeed, dares Zardari and Bilawal to stage sit-in in Islamabad

–Announces 10-year special development package for tribal districts under which Rs100bn will be spent each year

–Says Kabul’s criticism of his advice to hold Afghanistan elections through interim govt was uncalled for


JAMRUD: Prime Minister Imran Khan on Friday dared Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari and his father, former president and PPP Co-Chairman Asif Ali Zardari to go ahead with their announcement of staging a sit-in protest in Islamabad, saying their efforts to bring down the government would never succeed.

Addressing a public gathering in Jamrud, Imran said,”Zardari sahab, no matter how hard you push … no government is going anywhere. But you are going to jail.”

Commenting on Zardari’s statement that he would call on PPP workers to march on Islamabad, the premier said: “Asif Zardari, know that a dharna is successful only when you share the people’s grief and stand up for them.” He added that people had been paid “Rs200, Rs500” to attend the gathering held by the PPP on the occasion of the 40th death anniversary of former prime minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto on Thursday.

“I invite you and your son, come and stage a dharna in Islamabad,” Imran said, adding that he will not only arrange containers for the PPP leaders but also provide them food.

“But it is my challenge [to you] to spend one week in a container,” he said, claiming they would not be able to do so because politicians become leaders with their struggles and not by claiming that they “have inherited a political party”.

Imran also criticised Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam chief Fazlur Rehman, who has announced he will launch a ‘million march’ to “get rid of this fascist government”.

Recalling that Rehman had been “clean-bowled” in the 2018 general elections, the premier said Fazl will not get another chance to be part of the government despite his efforts.

He said the PTI government has been in office for only seven months but the opposition has already been claiming that the government has failed.

“The real issue is that they are pressuring us so that we give them an NRO-like deal] for the money they have laundered out of the country,” Imran alleged, urging opposition leaders to “come and answer to the courts” if they are innocent instead of fleeing off to Britain.

“You can stage as many sit-ins and rallies as you want, but you will have to answer to this country for the money you have stolen,” he told his political rivals. “If you want to save yourselves from jails, there is only one way [of doing it]: return the nation’s money.”

On external challenges, Imran said that he had strongly opposed the decision of sending Pakistan Army troops to the tribal areas “on America’s order”.

He said he understood the difficulties residents of the tribal areas faced when they had to migrate from their homes after the onset of military operations in the area. “No one will fully realise the sacrifices given by the people of tribal areas,” the PM said, promising to make efforts to compensate people for their economic losses.

Prime Minister Imran then announced a 10-year special development package for the tribal districts.

He said that Rs100 billion will be spent on the development of tribal areas each year. He said health, education and sports facilities in tribal areas will be enhanced.

He also announced that he has issued directives for the Torkham border with Afghanistan to be kept open 24/7 in order to facilitate business and trade for locals.

The PM said the process of merger is difficult but the government is committed to completing it as early as possible.

He announced a number of development projects for the area which include construction of Jaba and Bara Dams, Shalman Water Supply Scheme, Bara Bypass and launching 3 and 4G mobile internet service.

The PM assured that electricity and gas facilities will be provided to tribal people. He hoped that these project on completion will help remove the seventy-year deprivation of the tribal people.

Khan also addressed the criticism he attracted from Afghanistan after suggesting that Kabul should set up an interim government before elections.

“Remember that we consider you our brothers,” he told the people of the neighbouring country, adding that he had only advised Afghanistan to hold elections through an interim government, drawing lessons from Pakistan’s past. An election conducted by an interim set-up, which the opposition will consider a “neutral umpire”, will prevent anarchy in Afghanistan, he added.