No ‘NRO’ but ‘plea-bargaining’ yes…


Imran Khan tells opponents “Give the money and

go out of the country”, sons of Nawaz Sharif approached

two countries but their heads refused to intervene

ISLAMABAD: Outlining his future programme to deal with the politicians involved in money laundering and other financial corruption cases, Prime Minister Imran Khan has categorically pointed out that there would be no NRO but plea bargaining.

In a panel discussion programme aired by ARYNewsTV on Monday evening along with Adviser to Prime Minister on Finance Dr Hafeez Sheikh and Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) Chairman Shabbar Zaidi, he said; “The NRO will not be offered,” he said, referring to a deal similar to the national reconciliation ordinance issued by former dictator Pervez Musharraf, under which cases against a large number of politicians and political workers were quashed.

“Two NROs issued by Musharraf to [PML-N’s ‘supreme leader’] Nawaz Sharif and [PPP Co-Chairman] Asif Ali Zardari destroyed the country… Later, both of them also gave NROs to each other,” he said.

The only way forward, he said, is a plea bargain. “A Plea bargain can be allowed and no foreign country can do anything in this regard. They [Sharif and Zardari] will have to pay the money,” he said. “Give the money and go out of the country,” he said, adding that Nawaz Sharif wants to seek treatment from a foreign country and he will be allowed to do so, but after he settles with the government. He added that Asif Zardari is “facing difficulties; he will also be let go if he pays the money”.

Further talking about facing pressure to provide some relief to the two leaders, he said: “This is the first setup where the Army is standing by the government’s agenda and manifesto. No one can escape from any quarter. No intercession is going to work in this regard.”

He also warned that those politicians who had been arrested or convicted under money laundering charges would not be able to avail higher classes in jail. “I have told the law ministry that the money launderers should be sent to a common jail. Soon, legislation will be made in this regard. They [money launderers] should know how a common criminal is treated in this country,” he warned.

Imran Khan claimed that the sons of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif had approached two countries with a request to intervene and facilitate their father, who is currently incarcerated after being found guilty in a corruption case.

He said the two countries, which he did not name, conveyed the message but refused to intervene. “They told me that we will not interfere,” he said.

When asked if he had the word ‘selected’ banned in parliament, he replied: “I don’t care if anyone calls me ‘selected’ or something else.””My theory is very simple and I would like to tell it to Bilawal Bhutto, because he knows English better [than Urdu]: ‘Mind over matter: I don’t mind and they [who use the word] don’t matter’.”

The prime minister, while talking about the state of the economy, claimed that the PTI-led government had spent $10 billion on debt servicing on loans taken by previous governments. He said the incumbent government inherited a record current account deficit of over $19bn, which increased the pressure on the rupee.

Talking about steps being taken to address the issue, he said that a comprehensive plan is being devised to control smuggling and money laundering, for which new legislation will be brought in.

Asked about the higher tax target for next year, he said that the target will be achieved with the help of tax reforms and by expanding the tax base and net. He again regretted that half of the country’s tax collection is being spent on debt servicing.

The prime minister was also hopeful that the situation on the economic front will normalise after the next meeting between the government and the International Monetary Fund.

 ‘Benami’ properties

Imran Khan said action against politicians keeping ‘benami’ properties had started from today and all such properties would be confiscated. Similar action against all other people, who held benami properties or bank accounts, would also begin after three days.

The prime minister once again urged the non tax filers to register themselves with the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) and take benefit of the tax amnesty scheme. After expiry of the deadline (July 3), action against all the benami property and bank account holders would be initiated.

To a question, he said the army and the government were on the same page and he would accept no pressure from anyone and anywhere to give National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO) to the jailed opposition leader.

While blaming the previous rulers for the economic woes of the country with ever increasing gap in the fiscal and current account deficits, he vowed to streamline the economy by enforcing strict financial discipline through relevant laws and legislation. He said his government inherited about 19.5 billion dollar current account deficit which caused huge pressure on the country’s economic outlook and was pushing it into perils of being declared a defaulter.

The prime minister said the timely assistance from the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, China and Qatar had greatly helped in easing the financial pressure and improved the foreign payments. He said without their support, the payment of foreign loans could not have been made possible. The government was able to meet about debt servicing commitments of 10 billion dollars, he added.

The prime minister said the pressure on rupee would be further eased during the current month (July) because it was also linked with the outflows or inter-banks mechanism. He said the financial situation would be stabilized as the International Monetary Fund (IMF) board was taking up Pakistan’s request for $6 billion bailout package on July 3.

No jail facility     

Imran Khan said he had directed the Ministry of Law to introduce a legal amendment to withdraw A-class jail facility from those who had looted the public money. He ruled out the possibility of any deal for both Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz leader Nawaz Sharif and Pakistan People Party Co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari. Under the new law, such looters of the public money should be put in those jail cells where the common men facing the theft charges were imprisoned.

The prime minister said a political prisoner could avail the A-class facility and asked how that privilege could be extended to the plunderers of national wealth. Such people should be sent to ordinary jails just like other thieves, he added.

Meeting with Bajwa

Earlier, Chief of Army Staff Gen Javed Qamar Bajwa called on Prime Minister Imran Khan at the PM House on Monday and discussed with him country’s overall situation. According to sources, Gen Bajwa briefed the prime minister about his talks with British officials during his visit to London last week.

“Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s visit to Pakistan, situation at western and eastern borders and government’s measures in political and economic fields were also discussed during the meeting. Gen Bajwa reassured him that the Army fully supports government’s measures aimed to streamline the situation within the country.

“Army and the govt are on the same page and I would accept no pressure to give NRO to the jailed opposition leaders”; Imran Khan