ISLAMABAD: Pakistan's financial hub, Karachi, would have progressed if not for the ethnic politics of the 1980s, Prime Minister Imran Khan said Tuesday, in a wide-ranging interview with Dunya News talk show host Kamran Khan.
Earlier today, Khawaja Izharul Hassan, a leader of the ruling PTI's coalition partner, the MQM-P, had said a committee to resolve Karachi’s problems was not a solution.
It was reported late last week that the federal and Sindh governments had agreed on forming a committee comprising representatives of the city’s three main stakeholders — the ruling PTI, PPP, and the MQM-P — to address the metropolis' longstanding civic issues.
In his comments today, the premier said looking at the port city in its current state was painful. "The MQM-P founder spread hatred among people [of Karachi] and divided them; he wreaked havoc in Karachi."
"The situation in Karachi is dire," he added.
He said he has approached the courts on the issue of local government system in Sindh.
"I intervene in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa because we have the PTI's government there," the premier explained, adding that if the Centre intervened in Sindh, the provincial leadership "will make a fuss".
"We are going to do whatever we can for Karachi," he vowed.
Speaking about his political career, PM Imran said his "whole life had been spent in struggle". "I was nine years old when I started this struggle," he added.
"Those who do not know how to struggle falter," the PM underlined.
Referring to the time he was voted into office, he said Pakistan was close to defaulting, the public institutions were destroyed and the rupee weakened.
"Depreciation of the rupee leads to inflation," he said, adding that the government was paying instalments for the loans the rulers of the past had obtained.
He said that while he was attempting to make the country a welfare state, the elites gathered and are trying to overthrow the government.
Comprehensive power policy
With regard to power, the premier said electricity in Pakistan was costlier but sold at a cheaper rate, noting that "we are producing the most expensive electricity in the world".
If electricity prices had not been revised upwards, the country would have had to take loans, he noted.
A comprehensive power policy is set to be introduced in a couple of weeks, he added.
'Endured COVID-19 criticism'
Speaking of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, the prime minister said many people talked about how he did not understand the crisis.
"Our party and the Opposition leaders kept saying that everything should be shut down during the corona [virus pandemic]," he noted. "A strict lockdown was imposed in Sindh; that was their [provincial government's] right after the 18th Amendment."
"We had to endure a month of criticism during corona," he said. "I told Bill Gates that we saved our lower class by imposing a smart lockdown," he added.
'I will fight the sugar mafia'
Speaking of the inquiry into the sugar crisis, the premier said Pakistan Sugar Mills Association (PSMA) had "threatened Wajid Zia, warning him to stop whatever he was doing". He said that it thought that the government would buckle if the sugar prices rose.
"I will fight the sugar mafia," he added.
The PM noted that sugar sales in Punjab doubled in July but it emerged that it w as being sent from Punjab to Sindh.
"The PTI is not in power in Sindh so they are hoarding sugar there," he explained. "The Sharifs, the Zardaris, and many other politicians own sugar mills."
"They can blackmail me as much as they want but I will not let off the hook unless and until they abide by the law," the premier said, adding that the public institutions would make a decision on the sugar inquiry report.
PM Imran also mentioned his longtime friend and fellow party member, Jahangir Khan Tareen, saying he "did the most with me in my struggle over the past seven to eight years".
'Opposition seeking to get rid of NAB'
Referring to Pakistan's anti-graft watchdog, the National Accountability Bureau, he said: "We're not dictating [NAB's actions]."
Speaking of the Opposition parties, the PM said their leaders had only one goal and that was to blackmail him. "Should I have given them NRO," he asked rhetorically.
He said the Opposition parties wished to do away with clauses that would eventually bring an end to NAB. They were also blackmailing the government over legislation related to the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), he added.
Throwing a jibe at the PML-N vice-president, he noted that there was stone-pelting when Maryam Nawaz was going to NAB's office in Lahore for an appearance.
"They go to the NAB as if Nelson Mandela is going to NAB."
Accusations against Buzdar 'a joke'
"We are strengthening the FIA [Federal Investigation Agency]," the prime minister said, adding that the accusation against the Punjab chief minister pertaining to alcohol licensing was a "joke".
The chief executive of the biggest province, Punjab, was summoned over the alcohol licensing issue but excise department's officials should have been called, he noted.
Summoning Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar led to suspicions, he lamented.
"Attacks are launched at Usman Buzdar and that makes me very sad," he said. "He has become the chief minister for the first time and he is learning," he said, adding that Punjab was making rapid progress.