Prime Minister Imran Khan on Sunday remarked that Pakistan might need to return to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to address its mounting balance of payments crisis but would seek funding from friendly countries first.
Talking to media persons, after chairing a meeting of the provincial cabinet in Lahore, PM Khan reiterated Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf's policy of zero-tolerance against corrupt practices and announced to introduce a whistleblower and witness protection act within a week.
“We may go to IMF for a loan to handle the country's financial issues,” PM Khan said. “But, first we will try to get assistance from other countries as we have requested three countries to deposit money in Pakistan's State Bank that would help boost national reserves.” He, however, did not name the countries or provide any details of the requests.
PM Khan briefed about performance of Punjab ministers
The premier was in Lahore on an official visit to meet the cabinet members of the Punjab Assembly and discuss the prevailing political situation in the province with them.
During the provincial cabinet meeting, PM Khan was briefed about the performance of various ministries as well as the progress on the implementation of the 100-day agenda.
According to details of the meeting available with Radio Pakistan, Imran Khan took the provincial cabinet into confidence over the proposed reforms in local body structure and PM housing scheme. "The PTI government will try to overcome the shortcoming in the existing local government setup and replace it with an improved version," the premier was quoted as saying.
The premier vowed that the reformed local government structure will ensure timely completion of development projects. "Its main objective is to transfer powers to the local level who can then work on the welfare of people," PM Khan said. He directed the Punjab cabinet to do timely legislation in this regard.
Referring to the ongoing anti-encroachment drive in the province, PM Khan asked Punjab government to take all-out steps to recover government lands from encroachers and assured that the federal government will provide complete assistance in this task.
'Appointment of Buzdar is the change we promised'
PM Khan started his first press conference after assuming the office of prime minister by defending the appointment of Usman Buzdar as the chief minister of Punjab. “Buzdar’s appointment is the change we had promised. He knows the sufferings of people he is serving,” he said.
“You will have to give him [Buzdar] some time, and he will surely prove himself as the most successful chief minister of Punjab,” the premier said, adding that it will not be right to start judging him so early in his tenure.
NAB is working at slow pace, laments PM Khan
"I saw Shahbaz Sharif portraying himself as Mandela [a hero of the people], standing on top of the car and raising slogans," the PM said while referring to the opposition leader's arrest by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) on Friday.
"For 22 years I have been saying that Pakistan's biggest problem is corruption," the premier asserted.
"They [opposition] say that this is victimisation. Let me explain it to you, victimisation occurs when the one who is in power registers cases which are baseless. These cases were registered 10 months before we came into power," PM Khan pointed out.
He said that the NAB chairman had declared that the bureau will stop pursuing cases against politicians in the run-up to the election. "I found that very surprising. I have reservations with the NAB chairman," he said in disappointment.
The PM also said that "the NAB's speed is very slow" adding that if he was overseeing NAB, 50 people would have been in jail by now.
'Whistleblower Act to be announced next week'
PM Khan revealed that the PTI government will be announcing the Whistleblower Act next week and a witness protection programme.
"Anyone who can identify corruption and assist in the recovery of the embezzled amount will be rewarded with 20 per cent of the sum," the premier announced.
"Recovering looted wealth from within the country and abroad is the only way we can save people from the burden of inflation and heavy taxes," he said while encouraging people to come forward with information on anyone engaged in corruption.
Earlier on his arrival, PM Khan was welcomed at Government Officers Residence by Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar. PM Khan also met Punjab Governor Chaudhry Sarwar, where PM's Special Assistant Naeemul Haq was also present.
Meanwhile, a large number of protesters gathered outside the premier's Lahore residence in Zaman Park demanding justice from the PTI-led government over various grievances.
Among the protesters were teachers employed on a contractual basis, who demanded that they be regularised; people who had invested in the DHA Lahore housing scheme and allege that for the past eight years have not been given ownership of their plots or their money back; and employees of the Punjab Vocational Council who were terminated from their jobs wishing to be reinstated.
Upon receiving news of the protests, First Lady Bushra Imran sent a message to assure the protesters that their issues would be resolved and requested that they submit their grievances in writing.
A day earlier, PM Khan visited Quetta where he spoke at a function held at the Chief Minister House and chaired a meeting of the provincial cabinet. He was also given a briefing at the headquarters of the army’s Southern Command soon after arriving in the provincial capital. Army Chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa and other senior military officers received him when he reached the airbase.