ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan Saturday said there was no pressure from the army on the government in making the foreign policy, which was based on the PTI’s manifesto.
“The question of resistance to the army comes when they put pressure on me, but there is not even single thing, which I wanted to do and they asked me not to do,” he said in an interview with a local private television channel.
For example, Imran said, it was his belief from day one that there was no military solution to the Afghan issue and today what the government did with regard to the Afghan peace process had been acknowledged by the world.
Replying to another question, he said neither anyone pressured him nor could anyone do so adding that pressure would be on those, who would be fond of power and would then make compromises to remain in power.
He said the past rulers always claimed that they had conflict with the army due to its interference in the foreign policy.
Imran said he always advocated against military solution to the Afghan conflict and now they were pursuing the same policy.
Imran said he was unlike those who came into power to build factories and flats abroad adding that the ISI, being the world’s outstanding agency, knew everything when a prime minister would make a call or talk to someone, as it was their duty to protect the government head.
Imran said his government believed in strengthening the institutions.
He said all the institutions, including the NAB, were free having no interference or pressure from the government, but he would like that all those, who looted the national wealth were dealt with accordingly.
About his pledge to create one million jobs and build five million houses, the prime minister said they would even cross these targets on completion of their government’s term.
The prime minister said those who called him selected were themselves selected.
He recalled that Nawaz Sharif formed his party after having been made finance minister by General Jilani and then chief minister by General Zia.
“Zulfikar Ali Bhutto served as minister in the cabinet of a military dictator and then formed his own party when there was political vacuum. Bilawal Bhutto is party leader because of a slip, while Maryam got the PML-N’s post because she was daughter of Nawaz Sharif, having no political struggle.
Setting aside the allegations of rigging, he said the 2018 general elections were far fairer and more transparent than the 2013 polls. He said the Fafen in its report had said 2018 elections were better than 2013.
Responding to a question, he said if a former military officer was given a post, it did not always mean that there was pressure from the army.
He said Asim Bajwa was made head of the CPEC Authority because he led the Southern Command and interacted with the Chinese.
He said Bajwa was inducted into the information ministry team because of his ‘outstanding performance’ while he was the head of military’s media wing.
Asked about allegations against Asim Bajwa, he noted that Bajwa had responded in detail to the allegations against him.
He said if anyone had anything against him, he should approach the NAB.
About U-turn, Imran said he had an objective to achieve and that was to make Pakistan a welfare state.
“Strategies change as circumstances change. My vision is to make Pakistan a welfare state. If one method fails for this purpose, then I will adopt another,” he said.
Replying to a question about the NAB cases against the opposition, the prime minister said all these cases were framed before the PTI formed its government and only one case against Shahbaz Sharif was initiated during his government’s tenure, when employees of his office were caught having billions in their accounts and then being transferred to the Sharif’s accounts.
He dispelled the impression that the government was only targeting the opposition.
He also referred to the case against former secretary general of PTI Jahangir Tareen, who was being investigated by FIA and the Competition Commission.
“I feel sorry about the fact that Tareen was very close to me, who rejects the allegations and insists on being clean,” he noted and said the government had to follow the law and two ministers also faced cases.
Imran said the agenda of the opposition was the same from day one – to put pressure, blackmail and see the NAB shut.
Asked if Jahangir Tareen was still a part of PTI, Imran said Tareen had no position in the PTI.
“Whoever is under investigation has nothing to do with the party.”
He said there was a sugar mafia before but there was no investigation against it.
“The powerful people of Pakistan Sugar Mills Association used to set the price of sugar but no one touched them. This is the first time we have done this and are streamlining and reforming the things,” he said.
On reports of corruption against any minister in the federal government or the provinces, Imran said he personally investigated corruption allegations through the Intelligence Bureau (IB).
Asked about Naeem Bokhari’s appointment as board member and Chairman PTV, he said they had requested him for this, being unmatched in having experience of five decades in the state-run TV.
Regarding, Bokhari’s statement that the opposition will not be given airtime on the state-run television, Imran said Bukhari will not have the authority to deal with such matter.
“He is appointed chairman of PTV’s board of directors, which is a non-executive post in nature and does not have any decision making powers,” the prime minister said.
The premier said the opposition should be given airtime on the state TV to maintain its credibility like that of BBC, TRT and Al-Jazeera or else it will look like a mouth piece of the government and its ranking would come down.
He said the Bundal Island and Ravi Urban City near Lahore were being turned into entire new cities, which will provide the people with houses and jobs.
Throwing his weight behind the Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar, Imran said he was appointed because he belonged to a backward area of the province and knew the issues being faced by the people of those areas.
“I can assure you after completion of five years, Usman Buzdar will emerge as the number one CM of the Punjab,” he added.
Imran claimed that the Punjab government was taking steps to make the province a true welfare state.
“By the end of 2021, all families in Punjab will have health card which will provide insurance cover of up to Rs1 million per family,” he added.
Regarding ban on the arrival of Pakistani manpower in the United Arab Emirates, Imran said talks were underway and explained that there were 10 other Muslim countries, which faced the same situation.
Imran said after reading Nawaz Sharif’s medical reports, he could not believe that a person could have so many diseases and was alive.
He said Shahbaz Sharif had given a guarantee in the Lahore High Court that Nawaz Sharif would be back after his treatment.
He also dismissed the notion that he was under pressure to send Nawaz Sharif abroad for treatment.
“No one put pressure on me and no one can,” he said.
Regarding relations with Saudi Arabia, Imran clarified that relations between Pakistan and Saudi Arabia remained strong. He added there was no issue with Saudi Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman but he had a very good relationship with him.
He called for responsibility from the media and said he supported freedom of expression and healthy criticism that was always so handy.
Imran said US President Donald Trump would have easily won the 2020 election despite all the media projections against him, if it weren’t for the coronavirus pandemic.
Imran cited the example of Trump’s re-election loss to say that although the media had a very important role in society, it wasn’t a threat to the rule of a country’s leader.
“I have no problems with [criticism in] the media. The media can only cause a temporary loss,” he added.
“The most classic example is of Donald Trump. The way the entire mainstream media attacked [him], it appeared as if Trump would lose by a landslide. Instead, he bagged the highest number of votes in American history; it’s a separate thing that [Joe] Biden received even more votes.”
The prime minister said if Covid-19 had not caused widespread unemployment and deaths in the US, Donald Trump would have won no matter what the media did.
He said the media had a big role but sometimes it didn’t exhibit “responsibility along with its freedom” and resorted to “propaganda, slander campaign” and disinformation which could hurt the government efforts for economic revival.
Recalling his association with the media since his cricketing days, the premier said “criticism is an asset to society” and freedom of expression was crucial to the progression of human thought.