Prime Minister Imran Khan on Sunday pledged to introduce reforms that would transform Pakistan into a democratic state that respected meritocracy and provided economic opportunities to all.
Addressing a large gathering of Pakistani diaspora at the Capital One Arena in Washington, D.C.—where he is set to meet U.S. President Donald Trump later today—Khan once more reiterated his campaign promises of eradication corruption in Pakistan. “We will pull our country out of its current difficulties,” he said, according to the state-run Associated Press of Pakistan.
In a wide-ranging speech, the cricketer-turned-prime minister referred to his government’s recent move to bring about reforms in madrassas as an example of his desire to streamline Pakistan’s education system. He said that by providing better education to the impoverished, the government could help bring them out of poverty.
He also discussed his government’s plans for economic reform, reiterating the need to improve Islamabad’s tax-to-GDP ratio and facilitate investment. Traders, many of whom have been protesting recent moves to bring them into the tax-net, would not be allowed to dictate terms, Khan warned. He said they would have to pay taxes because it was the only way the country could afford to pay back loans taken by various governments—including Khan’s PTI.
“There is a bit [of a] difficult time of four to six months or a year. We will get Pakistan out of it and make it self-dependent,” the prime minister claimed.
Once again referring to his desire to establish a ‘welfare’ state in Pakistan, Khan said “merit” would become a reality once his government eradicated the system of “family rule” from Pakistan’s politics.
He said Pakistan’s previous rulers, several of whom are currently imprisoned on corruption charges, would have to return looted money if they wanted to be freed. “This will raise the nation and make Pakistan a great country,” he added, announcing that his government was withdrawing “A-class jail facilities” from Nawaz Sharif and Asif Zardari.
The prime minister, who was captain of Pakistan’s national cricket team when it won the World Cup in 1992, also announced that he would reform the national squad. He assured the gathered crowd that the next World Cup, in 2023, would witness an “efficient and capable team” from Pakistan in the field.
Referring to his upcoming meeting with U.S. President Donald Trump, Khan assured the audience he would not ‘embarrass’ them. “What you want me to say, to talk, to Trump…I am proud that … now the whole world is saying that Afghanistan has no military solution,” he added, referring to the current U.S. administration’s desire to secure a peace deal with the Taliban.
Earlier, the packed arena was shown a documentary on the journey of Imran Khan from his days as a cricketer to his campaign to build the Shaukat Khanum Cancer Hospital, the eventual formation of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf and finally his election to Prime Minister of Pakistan.