PM Imran pins hope on Exxon for ‘good news in three weeks’

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  • Says oil drilling company in final phase of exploration in Arabian Sea
  • Vows tax reforms, says govt focusing on strengthening accountability system

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan on Thursday announced that he will give the nation “good news in three weeks”.

Speaking to a select group of journalists from the print media at Prime Minister’s Office, PM Imran said that Exxon Mobil, a major oil company drilling in the Arabia Sea, was in the final phase of its exploration and would soon give positive news to the country.

Speaking about the major challenges facing Pakistan, the premier said that Pakistan is serious in its crackdown on banned militant outfits.

“This action should have been taken a long time ago. Pakistan is not in a position to host these proscribed outfits anymore and it needs to reclaim Islam from the hands of clerics who use religion as a tool to amass political power,” he said.

“It is unfortunate that people like Maulana Fazlur Rehman have become the custodians of religion,” said the prime minister whose party was an ally of JUI-S led by late Maulana Samiul Haq during the general elections.

“We had sublet our narrative of religion to uneducated clerics,” said Imran in an allusion to the Afghan jihad, adding that Pakistan failed to promote the state narrative of Islam since 9/11 bombings. He said the government would implement the National Action Plan (NAP) at all costs.

In addition to militant outfits that do not operate in Pakistan, the government would also ban the likes of Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan that emerged in the aftermath of Punjab governor Salmaan Taseer’s assassin Mumtaz Qadri’s hanging. The TLP has held two governments hostage over the issue of blasphemy.

After their protest against the Supreme Court verdict of Aasia Bibi, the government initiated a crackdown on the outfit. It detained its chief Khadim Rizvi and other leaders, booked under terrorism charges.

Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari has also taken the government to task for having “three pro-militant ministers” in the federal cabinet.

On ties with India, the prime minister said that Pakistan will have to remain alert until the general elections are over in India.

“There will be security threats until the Indian general election,” he said, adding that there were intelligence reports of possible terror incidents in Balochistan in the backdrop of the Pulwama attack.

“Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has benefitted from the war hysteria in the run up to the polls,” said the PM.

Speaking on the financial challenges facing the PTI government, Prime Minister Imran said that there is no easy way out of the prevalent crisis without making tough decisions, warning of inflation ahead of potential International Monetary Fund (IMF) package.

He said Pakistan’s economy consists of the black market, adding there’s a need for reforms in the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) to strengthen the taxation system.

Giving an example of the tobacco industry, he said only two companies were paying 80 per cent of the total tax in the industry.

He said that the government had taken away policy-making from FBR and the board will now focus only on tax collection.

Clarifying the controversy surrounding the UAE’s alleged refusal to give oil to Pakistan on deferred payment, Imran said that the UAE had never offered Pakistan oil on deferred payments.

The PM also spoke on the performance of the National Accountability Bureau.

He said that the bureau was understaffed and lacked resources. “The government is making efforts to strengthen the accountability system in the country to thwart corrupt practices,” he said.

He also accused former prime minister Nawaz Sharif of laundering billions of rupees in his children’s name.

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