ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan on Thursday made a rare appearance during a session of the National Assembly and defended his government’s coronavirus response after it came under criticism from opposition for being “confused”.
“We bore tons of criticism within the starting to impose a stricter lockdown. There was tons of pressure on me. From my very own people. From my very own cabinet to impose something like India,” said the premier.
“It is being said again and again that there was confusion [in our coronavirus response]. Mr Speaker, if there was any government within the world that wasn’t confused it had been ours. Since day one,” he added.
PM Imran challenged the opposition to means one contradiction in his statements since Pakistan imposed the lockdown on March 13.
“I have always held that if you’ve got Singapore’s population, an income of $50,000 per capita, if you’ve got natural social distancing, then the simplest thing is to impose a curfew.
“I also said that our conditions are such, we’ve to consider the impact on the poor. These are consistent statements on my behalf. you’ve got all my speeches on record,” he said.
The premier paid special tribute to the National Command and Operations Centre as thanks to their efforts to determine proper coordination between provinces, Pakistan has data to act on.
“We had no figures previously for a way many ventilators exist in Pakistan, what percentage medical care beds there are, what proportion staff is out there ,” he said.
He said that India’s example of a failed lockdown policy is being highlighted everywhere, including by ny Times.
PM Imran said as a result, 34% people are pushed into poverty there. “The poor people are crushed. There are thousands on the road. Transport has been shut. People have died on the road,” he said, to spotlight the impact a strict lockdown has had on the poor people in India.
He said even in America, people can see that cases are constantly ballooning and that they have had to simply accept they need to reopen their economies.
“They too are realising that even the world’s most powerful economy cannot endure the consequences of a lockdown,” he said, continuing to defend his government’s decision to ease curbs.
“We were the primary to speak of a sensible lockdown. it had been the NCOC,” he said.
He said subsequent phase may be a difficult one, with the govt challenged to impress upon people the importance of following standard operating procedures.
“We need to provide people a source of income but […] whenever there are clusters [of people], the disease spreads. We also know that if we don’t exercise caution, the prevailing pressure on hospital will only worsen.”
“So whoever is watching, it’s obligatory all folks , to form people realise how important is is to save lots of our elders, the ill, those that have vital sign and diabetes. the important aim behind a sensible lockdown is to guard these people,” he said.
The premier also stopped to increase his condolences to the families of the 4,000 people to possess died from COVID-19.
“If we exercise caution, our facilities are enough to be ready to deal with it,” he said, adding regretfully that he receives reports daily of how enough precaution isn’t being taken.
He reiterated that if people still take care , the month will pass “without any longer adverse impacts”.
‘Govt not hiding behind coronavirus’
The premier also addressed concerns that the govt is “hiding behind the coronavirus crisis”.
He said the world’s economy had suffered a $12.3 trillion setback thanks to the crisis, quoting figures released by the International fund today.
Speaking further of individual economies, he said that England has experienced a 20% shrinkage and its growth has gone into the negative territory. “The whole world is saying that this is often the worst depression during a 100 years.”
“England has had 40,000 deaths. But the amount of deaths don’t have anything to try to to with any of this. once you pack up the economy, it doesn’t make a difference what percentage deaths occur. the purpose is, what impact does it wear the economy?”
He said there’s no telling what proportion further losses the world’s economy will suffer and the way long it’ll deem a full recovery.
“Industries are shuttered which can never be revived again. The services industry, tourism sector and airlines have all gone into a crisis.
“So I found this concept very strange that we are ‘hiding behind the coronavirus crisis’.”
The prime minister also sought it pertinent to supply a “background” on the type of “sick” economy that the PTI government had inherited.
“It isn’t as if Switzerland’s economy was handed over to us,” he said, before detailing the government’s accounting deficit ($20 billion), its import levels ($60bn) and export levels (stagnated at $20bn) as compared .
He said the present account deficit may be a figure that everybody looks to when gauging an economy’s health.
The prime minister said that the due to shrinking dollar levels, the rupee witnessed a decline in value and imports became expensive, including oil, which impacted electricity prices and successively the value of everything else.
“Of course poverty and inflation had to rise. We didn’t mount this deficit. We had inherited it.”
He said half the government’s collection went towards paying off liabilities. then there was the matter of approaching countries for loans.
“I am the country’s biggest fund raiser. I never felt ashamed posing for money from Pakistanis for our own country — for hospitals, universities, earthquakes.
“But the shame that I felt once I visited other countries to invite money [was like none other]. regardless of what proportion of a well-wisher a rustic is, once you ask them for money, they get a glance in their eyes. it had been an excellent shame for not just me, except for our country,” said the premier.
“We were on the brink of a default. It wasn’t our fault. it had been our bad lack to possess had the type of leadership that we had within the past.”
He then went on to castigate the opposition for incurring heavy expenses on foreign tours.
“A prime minister is sort of a father to a nation, with the people of the country like his children. If my children are hungry, if i’m unable to supply them treatment, will I live sort of a king? Will I not hamper my expenses? This reflects a mindset”
He then provided a breakdown of all the expenses incurred by the incumbent government on foreign tours compared to the extravagant figures reported in past government tenures.
“In Washington I spent $67,189, whereas Nawaz Sharif spent $549,000 and Asif Ali Zardari spent $752,000.
“Did their leaders think: ‘Oh what impressive people they are?’ I dare say a Western democracy leader wouldn’t spend the maximum amount as they did.”
He also included figures for UN and Davos visits.
“Do they not know every dollar is important? You build a culture which is impressed upon people […] When a rustic seeks to implement austerity, rulers lead by example.”
Foreign policy success
The premier also spoke at length on Pakistan’s success in its policy during the incumbent government’s tenure and paid tribute to the foreign ministry and Shah Mahmood Qureshi. He recalled how this success wasn’t enjoyed within the past 10 years approximately .
“We supported America’s war on terror but we had to pay an important price and were humiliated instead. We supported them but they only blamed us. They weren’t successful in Afghanistan and that they blamed us for that too.”
He said two incidents mark a dark chapter in Pakistan’s history. “One is when the Americans came to Abbottabad and killed Osama bin Laden . They martyred him. the entire world taunted us and humiliated us.
“Our own ally involves our country and kills someone and doesn’t even tell us. And 70,000 personnel of ours had died for his or her fight,” he said, recalling the OBL incident.
The prime minister said drone attacks were another source of embarrassment. He said US Senator Carl Levin asked Admiral Michael Mullen why he attacks Pakistan once we object thereto but Mullen said they are doing so “with Pakistan’s permission”.
The premier said for an extended time the Pakistani people couldn’t decide whether we were the US’s ally or not.
“And what does he (Mullen) say in return? He said ‘why does the Pakistani government not tell their people the truth?'”
The Pakistani diaspora abroad had to face an excellent deal of embarrassment, he said.
The premier said the incumbent government’s policy, in contrast, was to never participate in war, only in peace talks. “Senator Lindsey Graham came here and endorsed our view that there’s no military solution, only a political situation in Afghanistan,” he added.
He said there was now a relationship “of trust” where “no one is now humiliating us”. “Donald Trump meets us with respect and requests us for help in bringing peace in Afghanistan.”
PM Imran said everyone now acknowledges Pakistan’s role in Afghan peace talks.
He also spoke of Pakistan’s role as a mediator at the request of Saudi Arabia and Iran. “We are going to be a rustic to unite the Ummah .”
Speaking of India, he said: “We are battling with a fascist, Nazi-inspired Hindutva approach that’s a threat to the region. [Modi] may be a fanatic and isn’t only a menace for Muslims but also Hindus […] he’s not a traditional man.”
He said he spoke to people abroad and therefore the NYT editorial board did their own investigations. “American media had never spoken out for Kashmir and never was India criticised love it is today. Now Pakistan receives better reception than India abroad.”
“The issue was raised twice in United Nations […] and today you see all Western newspapers are taking RSS to task,” said the prime minister.
“We wanted to require this further when the difficulty was at peak intensity but a replacement drama began,” he said, pertaining to the Fazlur Rehman sit-in.
“The Kashmir issue has reached some extent of no return,” PM Imran, adding that the movement “will not be stopped now”.