Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan on Friday admitted that the government made a mistake by allowing PML-N supremo Nawaz Sharif to travel abroad for medical treatment.
He expressed these views while addressing a public meeting in Mandi Bahauddin that was packed with PTI supporters. During his fiery speech, the prime minister also launched a scathing attack against the opposition and vowed to not let them off the hook until they returned the country's looted wealth.
"First it was one disease, then another, then platelets," he said referring to Nawaz's supposed ailments, adding that the government was under the impression that he would not survive for long. "I accept we made a big mistake by allowing him [Nawaz] to travel abroad."
He noted that the PML-N supremo used to visit Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in the past and ask the PTI where the 'Naya KP' was. "In the 2018 election, the province — which never gives anyone a second chance — elected PTI on a two-third majority."
Referring to the opposition as a "gang of thieves", the premier also lashed out at Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman. He said that the JUI-F chief was gathering the opposition and after every three months called for toppling the PTI government.
"The biggest reason for this is that after 30 years the country's assembly is functioning without diesel. It is running on solar [power]," he said, referring to the fact that the Maulana was not part of the National Assembly.
He claimed that the opposition was afraid, adding that the JUI-F chief was urging the opposition to oust the PTI government as he sensed that it would come into power once again in 2023.
'Opposition's haste for no trust move to save looted wealth'
He also accused the opposition of scrambling to move a no-confidence motion against the government in an effort to save its looted wealth.
"Why is there haste in moving a no-trust move?" he asked, noting that PML-N President Shehbaz Sharif was currently facing a money laundering reference.
"Shehbaz, if you are innocent, then why do you ask the courts for more time? Ask them to conduct day-to-day hearings."
PM Imran went on to say that when the opposition had filed a case against him in the Supreme Court, he had stayed in the country and had proved that he was sadiq and ameen (honest and righteous).
"I provided the documents the court asked for. I did not run away [or] ask for more dates. I told them to listen to the case [day-to-day]. So Shehbaz, why are you running?" he said, adding that the courts were free.
Turning his guns on PML-N Vice President Maryam Nawaz, the premier said that she was also "scared" due to the Chaudhry Sugar Mills case and was trying to "scare judges".
"They want a no-trust move so that the government can be ousted and they can get off scot-free like they did during Gen Musharraf's tenure," he said, referring to the country's former military ruler.
"I have a message for the Sharif family: we are prepared for whatever you decide to do. Whatever your plan is, kaptaan is prepared for that plan."
He predicted that the opposition would once again not only fail, but would end up in jail this time around.
'No NRO for thieves'
PM Imran also categorically said the opposition would not receive a National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO) — a term used to imply amnesty — until it returned the money it had stolen from the people of the country.
"They are scared because Imran Khan has no price, he will not give you an NRO like General Musharraf."
He said that the cases against the opposition were old and they were asking him for an NRO, the same way they had asked Gen Musharraf.
"These thieves will not get any NRO until they return the country's [looted] money [...] as long as I am alive, I will not let them rest until they return the people's wealth," he vowed.
He said that the courts were free, adding that the government respected the judiciary. Giving examples of the opposition's alleged interference in the judiciary, he said that retired justice Sajjad Ali was pressured and chased away from the courts as he was hearing a corruption case against them, claiming that the SC's Quetta bench was "bought".
"Now Maryam sahiba says she has tapes. Have you ever heard of politicians keeping tapes and blackmailing judges?"
He said that there was first a tape of former accountability judge Arshad Malik, who passed away in 2020. "Then a fake tape was made of a former chief justice to save themselves in a case," he said, referring to the alleged audio clip of former CJP Mian Saqib Nisar.
"This is not what politicians do, this is what the mafia does," he declared, calling on supporters to help the government combat them. "I have vowed to fight them as long as I am alive."
'Inflation has increased'
Commenting on the increase in inflation, the prime minister said: "They [the opposition] say that it has increased. There is no doubt it has increased."
However, he went on to say that the government was always working on how to lessen the burden of this inflation on the people of the country.
PM Imran also called on journalists to inform the people about the reason behind the hike in prices. "Supply lines were affected due to the pandemic. There was a shortage of commodities and they became more expensive."
He said that petrol that was previously available for $40 per barrel was now being sold for $90. "What can we do about this? We have to import petrol."
The prime minister said that the government had reduced duties and taxes on oil so that it could lessen the burden on the common man. "Every month, the government suffers a loss of Rs70 billion due to this."
He highlighted that inflation had increased across the globe, noting that it was at an all-time high in the United States for the first time in 40 years. He also gave the examples of Germany, Britain and Turkey.
"If you Google this on your mobile phones, you will see that I am speaking the truth," he said, adding that the government was committed to lessening the burden on the people of the country.
At the same time, the premier also highlighted that the country's exports, remittances and tax collection were at an all-time high, adding that the country was now on the right track.