Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan today said that the country will enter into talks with all neighbors to normalize ties, as without it peace can’t be brought in the country.
In his an-hour-long maiden address to the nation a day after his swearing in as the country’s 22nd prime minister, Khan identified Pakistan’s challenges on the economic front, announced sweeping changes to bring austerity and revive the stagnant economy.
He also lashed out at the previous PML-N government for current debt crisis which has risen to Rs 28 trillion, saying the country had not been as indebted in its entire history as it has been in the last ten years.
“I have talked to all neighbors and Insha Allah, we will improve relations with all neighbors. Without peace (with neighbors) we cannot bring peace in Pakistan,” he said.
Khan, who made an extempore speech while taking help of notes, promised to start the change from his life.
Outlining his governments’ approach to resolve the issues, Khan stressed on taking austerity measures, working on tax reforms instead of taking loans, rooting out corruption.
He also spoke about revamping the judiciary, educational and healthcare reforms, civil service reforms, devolution of power, providing jobs opportunity to youths and building dams to end the water crisis.
“Never in Pakistan’s history have we faced such difficult economic circumstances. Our debt burden is Rs 28 trillion. We haven’t been as indebted in our entire history as we have been in the last ten years,” he said.
“The interest that we have to pay on our debt has reached to a level that we have to take more debt to repay our obligations. Our external debt obligations have reached a level that we have to contemplate how we are going to grapple with them,” Khan said.
“On one hand we are so indebted, and on the other hand our human development index ranking is very poor,” he said.
“I will not do any business and live a simple life. Those making illegal money are my enemies. You should help me to identify them and stop them,” he said.
He said that he will live in a three-bedroom residence within the official PM House, a place that was reserved for the Military Secretary but Khan has decided to live there. He announced to transform the sprawling PM House into a modern university.
He said there were 524 workers and officials deputed at the PM House but he will keep only two of them.
Out of the 80 vehicles, including 33 bulletproof vehicles, he said he will use only two of them and auction the rest and deposit the money into the national treasury.
Khan said PTI formed governments in Punjab and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and his governors and chief ministers will not live in palatial official houses.
He said the economy was in bad shape due to debt heaped by the past government. He said 10 years ago, the total debt of the country was Rs 6 trillion which has increased to Rs 28 trillion.
He spoke about the poor human development index of Pakistan and said more than 23 million children were out of schools and 45 percent of children had stunted growth.
Khan once again promised to transform Pakistan into the state of Median which was set up by the Prophet in the early years of Islam.
He said Medina state was set up on the principles of rule of law, protection of rights of minorities, progressive taxation, based on merit, education for all and honest leadership.
Khan promised to reform the tax collection machinery, police, judiciary, education system, health and anti-corruption bodies.
He announced to deal with the corrupt elements with an iron hand and said all the wealth of the country stashed abroad by rich Pakistanis will be brought back.
The prime minister asked overseas Pakistanis to park their money in Pakistani banks and invest here assuring them that their investments will be safe in his government. He promised to facilitate the investors.
Khan announced setting up a task force to cut down the expenses of the government. He also said that he will meet the Chief Justice of Pakistan to draw up a scheme for speedy justice so that all cases were decided within in a year.
He also said that civil servants will be rewarded and punished on the basis of their performance.
He also announced to make Pakistan a true welfare state.
“We want to make Pakistan a welfare state. For this, we should create compassion in our hearts.” Khan said that he wished that the PM House be turned into a research university, he will form a committee to figure out how to cut expenses nationwide.
“I also want you to understand that the money we lavish on ourselves could have been spent on those who our state has left behind. ‘Naya’ Pakistan also requires a new ‘soch’ (thinking). We have to think about those who we have left behind,” he said.
On tax reforms, he said instead of trying to rebuild the economy by taking external loans, his government will try and fulfill its needs from within.
“No country can succeed by taking on debt again and again. Debts are taken for brief periods of time. I will be ashamed to go abroad and ask for money. If the leader of the nation has to go and ask for debt, what will my nation be?” Khan added.
He said only 800,000 people out of 200 million pay taxes in Pakistan.
“We will fix the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) and assure the nation that I will be responsible for your taxes. It is your responsibility to pay taxes. If we start paying taxes we will get out of deficit,” he said.
He termed money laundering as the biggest problem.