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.


Australia rejects UN migration pact, sticks with hard-line asylum-seeker policy

Updated 1 min 9 sec ago
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Australia rejects UN migration pact, sticks with hard-line asylum-seeker policy

SYDNEY: Australia will not sign up to a United Nations migration agreement because it would compromise its hard-line immigration policy and endanger national security, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Wednesday.
Australia joins the United States, Israel and several Eastern European countries in rejecting the UN Global Compact for Migration, which asks signatories not to detain would-be migrants arbitrarily and to use detention only as a last resort.
Morrison said that would jeopardize national security.
“The global compact on migration would compromise Australia’s interest,” Morrison told 2GB Radio. “It doesn’t distinguish between those who illegally enter Australia and those who come the right way.”
Under Canberra’s tough immigration policy, which has bipartisan support, asylum seekers arriving by boat are told they will never be allowed to settle in Australia.
They are then detained in two detention centers on remote South Pacific islands until they are accepted by another nation or agree to return home. The camps have been widely criticized by the United Nations and human rights groups.
“Australia is a textbook case of how not to treat boat arrivals, by sending them offshore to endure abysmal conditions for years and trying to shirk its international responsibilities onto less-developed countries,” said Elaine Pearson, Human Rights Watch’s Australia director.
Australia’s rejection of the UN pact is the latest move to tighten migration through a series of policies that are likely to form a central element of Morrison’s bid for re-election at a national ballot that must be held by May 2019.
Opinion polls indicate his conservative government is on course for a landslide defeat.
Australia has an annual immigration cap of 190,000 places. Morrison said this week his government would likely reduce that threshold, a policy that is popular with voters.
A Fairfax-Ipsos poll published on Monday found 45 percent of voters wanted immigration reduced, while a little more than 20 percent wanted an increase.
Morrison’s government said in October it would restrict new immigrants from living in Australia’s largest cities — Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane — for up to five years.
Although likely to win favor with voters, critics argued such a policy could lead to labor shortages.
Australia’s central bank governor said in August an influx of new residents had helped to underpin strong economic growth.