Pakistan's ousted prime minister Imran Khan held a massive rally here on Sunday and presented his party's 10-point roadmap for the cash-strapped country's economic recovery, including sops for the diaspora.
Addressing the public rally at Minar-i-Pakistan in the early hours of Sunday, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) chairman challenged the country’s ruling party to put forward a plan to rescue Pakistan from the many crises it finds itself mired in.
"I challenge that the incumbent rulers don’t have the ability or the intention (to save the country),” he said. Khan, 70, said he would happily step aside if the establishment tells him they have a plan.
"I know what the programme is…there is no programme,” he was quoted as saying by the Dawn newspaper.
Announcing the 10-point programme, Khan said that overseas Pakistanis will be motivated to invest in Pakistan to attract foreign direct investments to avoid going to the IMF again and again.
“We will facilitate all those who would export and bring dollars into the country,” he added.
Pakistan, which is in dire need of funds as it battles a wrenching economic crisis, has received economic assistance from the IMF in the past. The country is in discussions with global lender to resume its loan programme.
Khan asserted that the country needs to take difficult decisions to improve its tax collections and exports. “A major surgery is needed to put our house in order. Overseas Pakistanis will bring their dollars to the country provided they are given incentives,” he said, adding that only 2.5 million Pakistanis out of 220 million pay taxes.
"There is a need to increase the tax base to achieve progress," he said and also proposed giving loans to young people to start businesses and reviving the mortgage scheme. Khan said his government would promote tourism, adding that the minerals sector would be focused on generating revenue.
The ex-premier said after coming to power his government would increase agriculture productivity with the cooperation of China. “The government would take measures to stop money laundering,” he said, adding that the current account deficit would be curtailed as well.
Khan, who is facing threats to his life, addressed the rally from a bullet-proof glass container. Pakistan's broadcast media blacked out the coverage of the event under the 'pressure' of the PML-N-led government backed by the powerful military establishment.
The authorities appeared so desperate to fail the Khan’s power show that all major roads leading to Minar-i-Pakistan were blocked by police with containers and barricades. The internet services were snapped in parts of Lahore, especially at the rally site. The people reached the venue on foot after covering long distances.
Lashing out at the PML-N-led government and its handlers (a reference to the military establishment) for arresting and torturing over 2,000 of his party workers ahead of this rally, Khan said, “One thing is clear, whoever is in power, they will get a message today that people's passion cannot be curbed via hurdles and containers."
"The way the powerful circles are behaving in Pakistan today it seems that Imran Khan is the only problem of the country," he said.
Khan said a cabal of thieves was imposed on the nation after the toppling of his government in April last year. “I have completed a century of cases. I may cross 150. Poor spend their entire life fighting false cases in this country. Pakistan has no future if there is no rule of law," he said and added that ‘real freedom’ will only come if rule of law prevails in the country.
He slammed Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif for begging around the world but still failing to get any reprieve. Taking a jibe at Shehbaz, Khan said, “Former army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa said he used to scold Shehbaz for 40 minutes and he would not react and listen patiently. This happens when you (Shehbaz) come to power through the backdoor.”
The cricketer-turned-politician said for the first time in his life he felt what the people in Palestine feel. “Police attacked my house as they wanted to arrest me in false cases. The people supported me during the clash with the police as they knew I was right. They have booked me in 40 terrorism cases...will the nation accept that Imran Khan is a terrorist?” he asked.
He said despite Supreme Court's orders, the Election Commission of Pakistan delayed the April 30 elections of the Punjab Assembly for October 8 on the pretext of security and financial constraints.
“Who will guarantee that the elections will be held even in October? The government and its handlers have only one-point agenda – how to stop me from returning to power,” he said.
Khan said all eyes were on the Supreme Court to establish rule of law by holding elections in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in 90 days. Earlier on Saturday, the Lahore ATC granted Khan interim bail till April 4 in three cases filed at the Lahore Race Course police station.
Khan has been in the dock for buying gifts, including an expensive Graff wristwatch, which he had received as the premier at a discounted price from the state depository called Toshakhana, and selling them for profit. Khan was ousted from power in April last year after losing a no-confidence vote, becoming the first Pakistani prime minister to be voted out by the National Assembly.