Imran Khan vows to go after ‘thieves’ responsible for Pakistan’s economic woes

Pakistani prime minister Imran Khan  (Photo by Thomas Peter-Pool/Getty Images)
Pakistani prime minister Imran Khan (Photo by Thomas Peter-Pool/Getty Images)

PAKISTAN prime minister Imran Khan has vowed to go after the  “thieves” who left the country badly in debt and set up a high-powered  commission to probe huge debts incurred during the last 10 years, as he  defended arrests of several key political figures in corruption cases.

In  an unusual midnight speech after the first budget of his cash-strapped  government was presented, Khan said that all economic problem were due to  debt which increased to Rs 300 crore from Rs 60 crore in 10 years.

His  speech came on the day when Leader of the Opposition in the Punjab Assembly, Hamza Shehbaz was arrested by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) in  cases related to money laundering.

On Monday, former president Asif Ali  Zardari was also arrested by the NAB in connection with a multi-million  dollar money laundering case. Former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif (from  the PML-N party) is already in jail having been sentenced in another  corruption case in 2018.

Khan announced that after putting to rest  the initial focus of the government to stabilise the economy, his attention  would be more targeted towards bringing the ones to task who had caused the  country to fall into such dire straits.

“Pakistan is stable now. That  pressure [to stabilise the economy] has been relieved. Now I will go after  them [the corrupt politicians],” declared the prime minister. “I’m making a  high-powered enquiry commission with a one-point agenda: how did they raise  the debt to Rs24,000 billion (240 crore) in 10 years?”

He said that  the commission shall comprise the FIA (Federal Investigation Agency), IB  (Intelligence Bureau), ISI (the Inter-services Intelligence Directorate),  FBR (Federal Board of Revenue) and SECP (Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan).

The Pakistan Peoples Party and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz served in two successive terms since 2008 when Khan claimed  debt increased. Khan said that the commission will include  representatives of the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA), Intelligence  Bureau (IB), Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), Federal Bureau of Revenue  (FBR) and Security and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP).

He said  that those who were in helms of affairs during last 10 years will not be  spared.

“All those in power will be fully investigated by this commission which will prepare a report so that no one dare leave the country in tatters ever again,” he said. “Even if my life goes, I will not leave  these thieves alone. I had prayed to God to give me one chance – I will not
leave them.”

He blamed the two previous governments for all ills including low growth, joblessness and devaluations. Khan’s government has been  heavily criticised for the politically-motivated arrests in corruption  cases, but he defended them. Khan said he would not be “blackmailed” with  protests.

Talking about the recent arrests of the bigwigs, Khan said: “I am grateful to Allah, the big figures who are now jailed, no one  could have imagined [it could be done].”

“People are crying that  Sharif and Zardari have been jailed […] both of them used to call each  other corrupt. Mian Nawaz Sharif jailed Zardari twice during his two  tenures. The prime minister said that they [Nawaz and Zardari] came to an  agreement that each would rule for five years and “not say anything to each other”.