Prime Minister Khan asks nation to have compassion for poor, adopt austerity
Prime Minister Imran Khan's first address to the nation since being elected the country's new premier was broadcast at 9.30pm on Sunday, August 19, 2018, by Pakistan Television.
The address — essentially a road map to the 'Naya Pakistan' PM Khan has promised his supporters — began following a recitation from Holy Quran and the playing of the national anthem.
The new premier promised wide ranging reforms with a focus on safeguarding Pakistan's resources and their redistribution from the rich to the disadvantaged.He began by thanking those who had stood by him in his political struggle.
"I want to thank all my supporters who have been with me on this journey for the last 22 years," he started. "I salute all those who stood by me in my most difficult times; those who bore ridicule to support me ... I could not have been here without you."
Clarifying that he had stepped into politics not to pursue it as a career or profession, PM Khan said his only motivation was to help set Pakistan "on the path envisioned by [Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali] Jinnah and [Allama Mohammad] Iqbal."
The prime minister then moved on to identifying Pakistan's economic challenges and later spoke about how he would go about fixing them.Foremost on his mind were Pakistan's debt liabilities.
"Never in Pakistan’s history have we faced such difficult economic circumstances," he said. "Our debt burden is now at Rs28 trillion. We haven’t been as indebted in our entire history as we have become in the last ten years," he regretted.
"The interest that we have to pay on our debt obligations too has reached levels where we have to take on more debt just to settle it," he said.
Meanwhile, "our human development index ranking is also in the doldrums" he observed. Quoting from a United Nations report, PM outlined deficiencies in Pakistan's human development, noting that: "We are unfortunately among the five countries where infant mortality is highest because they do not have access to clean water."
"We also have the highest rates of mortality for pregnant women," he regretted.
He also spoke passionately about Pakistan suffering from the highest incidences of stunting in children. "I have been saying this for ages and nobody took me seriously. We are talking about 45 per cent of this nation’s children. They are not getting proper nutrition. They are not developing properly. They are automatically left behind. What must their parents go through seeing their children in such a state?" he asked.
Khan then pointed to the difference in the lifestyles of Pakistan's rich and poor.
"I want to speak about how the rich and powerful live in this country," he said. "The prime minister has 524 servants and 80 cars. The prime minister, which is me, also has 33 bulletproof cars. The prime ministers all have helicopters and aeroplanes to fly them. We have massive governor houses and every conceivable luxury."
How could it be, he asked, that: "On one hand we don’t have money to spend on our people, and on the other we have people living like our colonial masters used to live?"
Exhorting the rich and the privileged to reassess their priorities, he urged: "We need to be compassionate towards our compatriots: towards those who cannot afford to eat twice a day. We need to ask what will happen to the 25 million children out of school. We need to ask what happens to our population. We need to ask how we are to grapple with climate change."This is the time that we decide to change our destiny."
The prime minster then explained he will use the examples of governance set forth by the Holy Prophet (Peace Be Upon Him) "to bring the nation out of its plight."
"What did the Holy Prophet do to unite all the tribes living in the Arabian peninsula?" he asked. "What did he do to mould them [the Arabs] into one of the most powerful nations on earth? I want to speak on those principles today.
"I want to speak about how we are going to lift ourselves based on that model."
The prime minster then proceeded to give a five-point agenda:
"The first thing is the supremacy of law," he said. "The law has to be the same for everyone.
"The second thing is Zakat. What does Zakat mean? It means that I spend based on what I have on those who do not have enough. This is called progressive taxation. The rich pay more to subsidise the poor. This happens in Scandinavian countries, where there is good healthcare, good education and justice for all. The disabled, the orphans and widows have support.
"The third is compassion. In the west, they care for animals in ways that would put us to shame. The have shelters for animals. Animals fare better there than humans do here. We need to incorporate those lessons.
"The fourth is merit. Without merit you cannot do anything. The responsibilities of the ruler entail that they are sadiq and ameen. They have to be truthful . They can have no conflict of interest. The west has these laws. In our country, you see people amassing untold riches during their tenure in power.
"The fifth is education. The Holy Prophet stressed education above everything else. After the Battle of Badr, he made it incumbent on his people to attain an education. Look at us today: we are nowhere because we have not followed his instructions."
Perhaps realising that he was placing a tall order for his supporters, he said: "You should not feel overwhelmed. We are in this together and we will find a way out together."
He then proceeded to explain what he himself was doing towards that goal.Measures to cut down on expenses
PM Khan detailed how he plans on cutting down his own as well the country's expenditure, saying: "I will keep only two people with me out of the [prime minister's staff of] 524. I will be staying in a three-bedroom house that served as the military secretary's house.
"I will have to keep two of the cars because my intelligence agencies tell me my life is under threat. I also wish I did not have to move out of Banigala, but I have been forced to do so because it is not safe to stay there."
"We will be auctioning off all the other bullet proof cars," he promised. "I invite businesses to come and buy them. We will put the proceeds of that auction in the state treasury.
"I also wish that all the governor houses are kept as simple as possible," he said. "I further wish that the PM House will be turned into a university. It is in a great location to be one.
"I am forming a committee under Dr Ishrat Husain to figure out how to cut expenses nationwide," he revealed.
He also urged his supporters to adopt austerity measures.
"I want you to understand that the money we lavish on ourselves could be spent on those who our state has left behind. Naya Pakistan also requires a 'nayi soch'. We have to think about those who we have left behind."Tax reforms instead of loans
On reforming the financial sector, PM Khan explained that instead of trying to rebuild the economy via external loans, his government will try and fulfill its needs from within.
"No country can succeed by taking on debt again and again," he said. "Debts are taken for brief periods of time. We cannot go on the way we have. And you need to realise that when these people give us money, they attach conditions to it.
"I will be ashamed to go abroad and ask for money. If the leader of the nation has to go and ask for debt, how will my nation feel?
"We also need to pay our taxes. I am going to fix the Federal Board of Revenue on a priority basis. It has lost its credibility and that is why people don’t pay taxes. I will promise my people that I will protect your tax money and spend it on you.
"We will keep our end of the bargain, but I want you to pay your taxes too. That is your responsibility. Pay your taxes so that we can lift our destitute out of poverty.
"I promise you, if I can assure you that your tax money will be spent on you, we will not face these deficits in the future. God willing, this will not happen again.
"We are also creating a task force to repatriate wealth looted from this country. We need to put an end to money laundering. It is our biggest problem right now.
"We need to boost our exports. How will that happen? We will need to help export industries. We have made a business advisory council to help address their challenges.
"Then we need to boost investment. We need to bring in money from abroad. There is going to be an office in the prime minister’s secretariat dedicated to this purpose.
"We need to help our small and medium businesses. They are the backbone of our economy. We need to reduce the cost and difficulties of doing business for them."Message to overseas Pakistanis
PM Khan invited overseas Pakistanis to invest in the country and help rebuild the economy. "We need to facilitate overseas Pakistanis," he said. "Our embassies need to facilitate them in every way we can.
"I have a special message for overseas Pakistanis. We are trying our best to create a good investment environment for you. We want that you bring your money to Pakistan and park it in Pakistani banks as we are short of foreign exchange. Send your money through official accounts. We need your help."Rooting out corruption
The prime minister said that rooting out corruption will also be a high priority for his government.
"I will meet the NAB chairman and facilitate him with whatever he needs," he said. "We will also enact a law for whistleblowers like we did in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Whoever helps identify corruption will get a share of the money that we recover. The SECP and the FIA will be fixed on a priority basis.
"I have kept the FIA and the interior ministry under me because I want to personally oversee our efforts to eradicate corruption.
"I want you all to understand that the moment we start going after corrupt people, they will start raising a hue and cry. They are everywhere. They will come out on the streets. They will say that democracy is in danger. I want you all to continue standing with me. We will save this country or these corrupt people will save themselves."Revamping the judiciary
PM Khan said that he will seek Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar's help to revamp the judicial system.
"The next focus will be on revamping our judiciary," he said. "We have a massive backlog of cases. We will sit with the chief justice and discuss how we can ensure that cases can be wrapped up within a year. We have to do this for our people.
"I want to make a special request to the chief justice. There are quite a few widows who have approached me for help. They are embroiled in property disputes. I want to request the chief justice: please, at least for widows, resolve such cases at the earliest.
"I declare this as my resolve: the weak who are systematically discriminated against in our country will always have my support."KP police model to be implemented in Punjab
The prime minister said he has asked former KP IG Nasir Khan Durrani to implement the KP police model in Punjab.
"We also need to fix our police," Khan said. "The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa police is our biggest success. We won the election because of how good our police had become. The former IG who oversaw those successes, Nasir Khan Durrani, has been asked to help fix the Punjab police and he has agreed.
"We do not have the power to do so in Sindh, but we will work with the Sindh government as well to do what we can."Educational reforms
The prime minister said his focus will be to improve public sector education as well as madressahs (seminaries).
"We also need to fix our education system," he said. "We need to focus on government schools, which are in a shambles. I know that salaried individuals are making huge sacrifices to make sure their children get a decent education. They sometimes work two jobs to give their children the best they can.
"We therefore need to make sure our government schools are good enough that everyone can send their children to them. This is an emergency."
"We also cannot leave madressah students behind. They too should become engineers and doctors and generals. Why do we not give them the opportunity? We need to do it."Healthcare reforms
PM Khan stressed the need to "fix the healthcare system. It is immensely difficult to fix the pre-existing system. It takes a long time: the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa health system did not start showing results till the fifth year. But we still need to do it.
"We also need to introduce the health card all over Pakistan. We have given every household in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Rs550,000 in case of a healthcare emergency. We should give it all over Pakistan."Dams to be built to end water crisis
Khan said that a "water crisis is brewing" which require dams to be built to resolve it.
"There was a crisis brewing but we weren't prepared," he said. "We have an emergency. Karachi doesn't have water due to the tanker mafia. Quetta and Islamabad too.
"A ministry will work towards saving water. New methods will be taught to farmers. Canals will be lined to save water, while the Bhasha Dam will be constructed at all costs. It’s a commendable initiative started by the chief justice."Civil service reforms
The PM said that he will enforce meritocracy to restore civil service to its formerly held high standards. "In the 1960s we were considered one of the best in the world," he said. "It is unfortunate how we have fallen behind. Dr Ishrat Hussain is forming a committee to bring merit back.
"We will not tolerate any political interference in anyone’s appointment. I just want people ready to work for the nation.
"But an ordinary man, when he steps into any govt office, also has to be given respect. This is his right, which he will be given. Bonuses will be given to those who serve people in a timely manner. Otherwise, penalties will also be imposed."Devolution of power
Khan stressed the need to transfer the power to the local government, saying: "Power must be given to the bottom-most tier. Nazims will be directly elected in districts, while checks and balances will be kept.
"Development funds are given to MNAs and MPAs but the development takes place in baldiyaat."Plan for the youth
The prime minister said that "jobs must be given to the country's youth. A big project of housing will be started. It will be a one-window operation [create] jobs and [to boost] industries. The youth will be given loans without interest so they can become entrepreneurs.
"Cricket grounds have been taken over and houses schemes made over them. We need to build playgrounds and parks for them."Environmental issues
Khan said he will replicate KP's billion tree in the entire country. "We planted 1 billion trees in KP," he said. "We will bring our expertise and plant trees all over the country. Karachi has a heatwave as it has nothing but concrete. A large-scale initiative will be initiated to make Pakistan green again."
“The menace of pollution has to be addressed immediately as it leads to the spread of innumerable diseases."Compassion for the underprivileged
The prime minister vowed that his government will have compassion for and take care of the neglected and the underprivileged.
"Street children are our children, and if we don't look after them who will?" said Khan. "Widows and the handicapped ... we will take responsibility of all.
"I want us to develop compassion in our hearts. It's in the animal kingdom where it is the survival of the fittest. In human beings, it [should be] different.
"The Madina model" PM Khan said he "will follow Medina’s example" to rid Pakistan of its chronic problems.
"They did not borrow from Roman or Persian empires," he said. "They strengthened the people and made them self-sufficient. They adopted simple ways.
"I will show you that, I will lead a simple life. I will save every penny, I will do no business as my doing so will only harm other businessmen."Take ownership and help me help you: PM
The prime minister, at the end of his maiden address, told the nation to play a more proactive role in the rebuilding.
"I need your help," he said. "When you are being robbed you don't wait for the police to come. You nab them and hand them over. [Similarly], you should help me catch these robbers of the nation. This is the social media age. Keep check on and report such people. We have to act as a team. Help me protect your money."
"We have to take ownership and serve the nation. My vision is: one day will come when Pakistan will have no one taking Zakat.
If we succeed in our nation building we will offer aid to other countries."This is my idea for Pakistan. This is the Pakistan I want to see."