Elected PM, Khan pledges to punish ‘all those who have robbed Pakistan’

Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party holds 151 of the 342 seats in the lower chamber of Parliament. (Reuters)
Updated 18 August 2018
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Elected PM, Khan pledges to punish ‘all those who have robbed Pakistan’

  • Opposition parties allege election rigging and say Khan’s path to power was made easier by the tacit support of the powerful military
  • The economy is likely to preoccupy Khan’s first few months in office

ISLAMABAD: Pakistani lawmakers elected former cricket legend Imran Khan prime minister on Friday and he pledged to bring to justice “all those who have robbed this country” through corruption.
Parliament’s move cleared the way for the 65-year-old Khan to set up a coalition government and his first major task will be to avert a brewing economic crisis after his party swept to election victory on July 25.
Khan’s party won power on an anti-status quo platform, vowing to fight corruption and lift millions of people out of poverty.
Pakistan has been plagued by boom-and-bust cycles and military coups since independence in 1947, as well as by militant violence in more recent years.
Khan, a firebrand nationalist, has promised to create millions of jobs and build world-class hospitals and school systems in the mainly Muslim country of 208 million people.
Among his first challenges will be to decide whether to request an International Monetary Fund (IMF) bailout to ease currency pressures, or seek support from China and risk deepening Pakistan’s economic dependence on its neighbor.
“I want to thank the people and I want to thank God for giving me the opportunity to bring change,” Khan, wearing a black waistcoat over traditional white shalwar kameez robes, said in a combative speech in parliament.
“First of all we have to do strict accountability,” Khan added. “Those who have robbed this country, I will hold each and every one of you accountable.”
In a sign of Pakistan’s bitter political divisions, opposition lawmakers surrounded Khan and disrupted his speech throughout by shouting “thief, thief Imran Khan” and “puppet.”
Khan’s election was only the second democratic transfer of power since Pakistan’s 1947 independence, and came at a time when relations with on-off ally the United States are fraying over alleged Pakistani support for militants waging war in Afghanistan. Islamabad denies aiding insurgents.
Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party holds 151 of the 342 seats in the lower chamber of parliament, short of a majority, but is expected to form a coalition government with smaller parties.
In Friday’s lower house vote, Khan garnered 176 votes to defeat Shehbaz Sharif from the outgoing Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) party, who won 96 votes. Khan, who will be sworn in on Saturday, has yet to announce his Cabinet.
His success in the election ended decades of political dominance by two dynastic powerhouses, the PML-N of three-time premier Nawaz Sharif, and the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), founded and led by the Bhutto family.
But Khan will face a battle to push through his ambitious reforms and legislative agenda due to the thin majority in the National Assembly. The Senate, Parliament’s upper chamber, is controlled by the opposition.
“Legislative business will be difficult for him,” said Raza Ahmad Rumi, editor of the Daily Times newspaper.
Opposition parties allege election rigging and say Khan’s path to power was made easier by the tacit support of the powerful military, which has ruled Pakistan for nearly half its history. The army and Khan’s PTI deny any collusion.
“The whole nation has rejected this election,” said Shehbaz Sharif, demanding an investigation of electoral irregularities.
Murtaza Abbasi, a PML-N lawmaker, said in Parliament Khan was “brought here by aliens,” a euphemism for the military.
Khan shot back that he had “struggled 22 years” to become premier and would not be “blackmailed.”
“No military dictator raised me. I got here on my own,” Khan said.
How Khan addresses historic civil-military tensions that have dogged successive governments could define his term.
No Pakistani premier has ever completed a five-year term in office, including Sharif, whose most recent stint in power was ended by the Supreme Court last year.
Sharif, who was jailed over corruption accusations several weeks before the election, saw his second stint in power ended by a military coup in 1999.
The economy is likely to preoccupy Khan’s first few months in office, with his administration facing a battle to reduce a ballooning current account gap and a high fiscal deficit, which shot up to 6.8 percent of GDP in the 12 months to end of June.
To deal with current account pressures Pakistan’s central bank has devalued the rupee four times since December, while interest rates have been hiked three times this year.
A sharp increase in oil prices — Pakistan imports about 80 percent of oil needs - has contributed to a current account deficit that widened by 43 percent to $18 billion in the fiscal year that ended June 30.
China has also provided billions of dollars in loans to shore up Pakistan’s foreign currency reserves, which stand at just over $10.1 billion - enough to cover two months of imports.
Earlier this week Asad Umar, widely expected to be appointed Finance Minister, told the English-language Dawn newspaper that Pakistan turning to the IMF would be a “fallback option” and that all other possibilities are being explored.


India and Afghanistan review their strategic partnership

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, right, with Afghan President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani at Hyderabad House in New Delhi on Wednesday. (AFP)
Updated 43 min 11 sec ago
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India and Afghanistan review their strategic partnership

  • Afghan, Indian leaders “reviewed and positively assessed the progress of the multi-faceted India-Afghanistan strategic partnership”
  • The two countries also decided “to strengthen connectivity, including through Chabahar port and the air-freight corridor.”

NEW DELHI: India and Afghanistan reviewed bilateral civil and military cooperation during a one day of meetings in  New Delhi on Wednesday.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani held a meeting with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in which the two sides “reviewed and positively assessed the progress of the multi-faceted India-Afghanistan strategic partnership.”

A press release from the Indian Prime Minister’s office announced after the meeting: “It was agreed to deepen the New Development Partnership in the areas of high impact projects in this field of infrastructure, human resources development and other capacity-building projects in Afghanistan.” 

 The two countries also decided “to strengthen connectivity, including through Chabahar port and the air-freight corridor.”

 “I would like to thank the Indian people for their commitment to Afghanistan's future,” Ghani said in a speech in New Delhi before leaving for Kabul.

“What India-Afghanistan share is deep and binding trust in democratic institutions,” he added.

Modi supported an “Afghan-led, Afghan-owned and Afghan-controlled peace and reconciliation process” and pledged “India's unwavering commitment to support the efforts of the government of Afghanistan to this end, as also for the security and sovereignty of Afghanistan.”

 “Peace with the Taliban is important so that we can concentrate on counter-terrorism. The Taliban is part of Afghan society, ISIS (using another term for the terror group Daesh) is not. We must make that distinction,” Ghani said in his address at the New Delhi-based think tank, India Foundation.

 Commenting on Ghani’s visit, Vishal Chandra of Institute of Defence Studies and Analysis (IDSA), a New Delhi-based think tank, said: “The timing of the visit is significant; he has come at a time when the Afghan forces are under great pressure from the Taliban and Daesh.” He added that Ghani was looking for wider regional support in initiatives to stem the rising tide of terrorism.

Talking to Arab News, Chandra underlined that “there is no question of India involving itself militarily in Afghanistan, but it might step up its efforts to ensure that they have better air capability and they don’t have shortage of ammunition. I don’t expect India to supply heavy weaponry.”

Harsh V. Pant, director of the think tank Observer Research Foundation (ORF) said: “Despite India scaling up its presence in the defence sector, New Delhi’s military presence in Afghanistan is limited.

“The appetite in India for military involvement is very small; there is no consensus about the military footprints New Delhi should have in Afghanistan. But there is a consensus that New Delhi’s security cooperation with Kabul should be extended and should be robust and that is what India is doing.” 

In his book “India’s Afghanistan Muddle” Pant argued that “India cannot evolve its equity in Afghanistan unless some form of military involvement happens.”

Pant told Arab News: “The visit of Ghani at this time is a sign of a certain maturity in the relationship where Afghanistan feels that India should be kept in a loop. The relationship has grown to an extent that two sides are comfortable with each other in sharing assessment about where the political trajectory is going.”