Prime Minister Imran Khan took to the airwaves on Tuesday night to vow that he will form a “high-powered” commission to investigate the cause of Pakistan’s spiraling debts.
In a nationally televised address following the presentation of the proposed 2019-20 federal budget, Khan said his government had accomplished its primary goal of a “stable” Pakistan and it was now time to go after “corrupt” politicians. “I’m making a high-powered enquiry commission with a one-point agenda: How did they [former governments] raise the debt to Rs. 24,000 billion in 10 years?” The cricketer-turned-politician said the commission would comprise representatives of the Federal Investigation Agency, Intelligence Bureau, Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate, Federal Board of Revenue, and the Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan.
“All those in power will be investigated by this commission, which will prepare a report so that no one dares to leave the country in tatters ever again,” he added.
Referring to threatened demonstrations over the arrests of opposition leaders, including former president Asif Ali Zardari and former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, Khan said he would not be “blackmailed” by protests. “Even if my life goes, I will not leave these thieves alone… They were raising a hue and cry that the rupee has fallen. Were they not worried that if the economy is in such bad shape, they should help the new government trying to stabilize the economy?” he said. “They tried their best to destabilize the economy. Three ambassadors expressed interest in making investments but said there is no stability,” he added.
The PTI, while in opposition, had been slammed by the then-ruling PMLN government over its months-long ‘dharnas’ that had also been cited as major destabilizing forces for the country’s economy. Upon his election, Khan had even cheekily urged the opposition to stage their own ‘dharna,’ adding that he would provide them a ‘container’ to stage it off.
“For 22 years, I was saying our biggest problem is corruption. The people should know what happens when a corrupt leader comes,” said Khan, “their assets are all abroad, their Eids are abroad, their treatment is abroad… They didn’t make one hospital where the Sharifs could seek treatment.”
Perhaps stinging from increasing public anger over spiraling inflation and growing economic unease, Khan said ‘Riyasat-i-Madina’ was not formed in a single day. “There was a process in turning it [Madina] into a welfare state,” he said, “The judiciary is free today. The NAB chairman is not ours […] we didn’t appoint anyone. This is the new Pakistan and you will slowly see the independence in institutions.”
Khan said all the NAB cases against opposition politicians had been filed before his government came into power. “Still they don’t let me speak in Parliament … what is my fault? My mistake is that I am not giving in to their pressure tactics to give them what they want, which is NRO.”
Referring to the government’s proposed budget, the prime minister said it was a “testament to the ‘Naya Pakistan’ the Tehreek-e-Insaf government wants to create.” He also lauded the Pakistan Army for refusing a mandatory increase in the salaries of senior officers—but did not mention the civil servants of senior cadres who have similarly refused a pay raise—noting that the country continues to face significant threats.
The prime minister’s address was beset by technical woes—the video cut out at least twice and the audio also appeared to be out of sync at one point. It was also originally slated to air by 9:30 p.m. before being delayed to 10:30 and then, once again, to 11:45 p.m.