Prime Minister Imran Khan on Saturday, while addressing a rally in Khan Garh, Ghotki, said the government will not let PML-N and PPP leaders off the (accountability) hook “until they give the country’s money back”.
“This country will not forgive you. You have only one route: give the country’s money back and we will leave you be,” the premier said.
Prime Minister Khan noted that earlier, “the Sharif brothers [former prime minister Nawaz Sharif and Leader of Opposition in the National Assembly Shahbaz Sharif] used to say that the former president [Asif Ali Zardari] was corrupt; later, Zardari and his son [Bilawal Bhutto Zardari] used to say that the [Sharif] brothers were corrupt.
“Today, both are trying to come together to ‘save democracy’,” he remarked, questioning the sincerity of the two parties’ political moves.
He said he wanted to “challenge” the two opposition parties to do whatever they wanted to do, but the government would not back down from holding them accountable.
The prime minister said his opponents “can go ahead with train marches”, a reference to the PPP’s “Caravan-i-Bhutto”, and “can also come to D-Chowk in Islamabad to stage a sit-in (‘dharna’). “The government’s containers are ready,” he offered.
“We will provide you food in the containers,” the premier said, adding he will see how long they can hold their ground.
“We [the PTI] held a dharna for four and a half months — not for our theft, [but] for the country’s democracy and for free and fair elections.”
‘Sindh’s royalties stolen’
Prime Minister Khan had begun his address citing the example of Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, who he credited with lifting Malaysia out of poverty.
“Remember, countries are not poor: [it is] corruption [which] leaves a country poor and indebted,” the premier said.
Khan said that Sindh should be the most prosperous province of Pakistan as it is home to Karachi, the financial capital of the country; the most gas is extracted from the province; and because it has fertile land, where cash crops such as sugarcane and rice grow in abundance.
However, the premier said, poverty persists in interior Sindh due to endemic corruption.
He noted that in the past ten years, 70 per cent of Sindh’s gas came from Ghotki, but regretted that the district which should have been furthest ahead had been left behind.
“In the past ten years, Rs234bn were distributed to Sindh as gas royalties,” the premier said, adding that everything had gone to the provinces in the National Finance Commission (NFC) award even while the federal government itself was going bankrupt.
“The money for your development should have come from the province, as the centre had given them the funds,” he said. “Everyone should ask how much of the share of royalties was given to Ghotki.”
“This is corruption,” he said, describing it as a few people controlling public resources while the rest of the country descended into poverty.
The premier said the money that should have been spent on the people of the country was pocketed by these elements and stashed in fake back accounts, and then moved abroad through money laundering.
He asked how the country’s indebtedness rose from Rs6 trillion to Rs30 trillion in the past ten years alone.
“Where did the money go?” he asked, adding that when the people responsible for the country’s precarious financial position were being held to account, “they say democracy had come under threat”.
Khan said that the money of royalties from gas should first go to those areas where it was found. He cited the example of Texas in the United States where oil was found and as a result even now the richest people were in Texas.
“First it [Texas] became prosperous and then the rest of America,” he said.
Alternatively, he said in Pakistan, the people in areas where gas was found were poor.
The premier concluded his address by sharing that in ‘Naya Pakistan’, those areas where certain resources were found, would also be the first to reap the benefits.