ISLAMABAD: After formally taking oath as a member of the National Assembly, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan on Wednesday urged the government and military leaders to devise an effective strategy to halt US drone attacks on the country’s soil.
The PTI chairman was unable to take the oath with other legislators on June 01 as he was undergoing treatment for serious back injuries he suffered in a fall at an election rally in Lahore on May 07.
Imran Khan, who is now 60, delivered a wide-ranging maiden speech in the parliament, setting out his policies and intention of holding the new government accountable from the opposition benches.
The PTI chairman said a comprehensive approach was needed which also involves the army chief. “The prime minister, army chief and chief ministers should sit together and form a policy on drone attacks,” Khan told the parliament. “We have to make this war our war, and it cannot become our own war unless we stop drone attacks.”
Khan said he was not in favor of shooting down drones, as some in his own party have urged, but called for a more concerted diplomatic effort. “First of all we should go to the UN Security Council and raise the issue there,” he said.
Khan said policies would have to be adopted collectively to tackle the national issues, as the terrorism could not be eliminated unless it was not dealt with at the root level.
The firebrand Khan was of the view that policies adopted to deal with terrorism were hypocritical from the very start and the war was fought based on lies. “Due to drone attacks on our territory, we have become associated with the US war and are referred to as their agents,” he said.
Khan said nations could not prosper without access to a fair justice system. He said that majority of the problems in Pakistan were due to injustices prevailing in society. He opposed the proposed increase in taxes announced in the recent federal budget, saying that it would only lead to more problems.
The PTI chairman congratulated the speaker as well as the prime minister their electoral success. He said he was speaking not as an opposition leader but as a Pakistani. He talked about the time when Pakistan was one of the leading developing states of Asia — a model for others to follow. And he asked the question “where did we go wrong?”
“We lost East Pakistan because we denied justice to the people. The poor Baloch sitting on the streets outside the Parliament want justice,” he said.
The PTI chairman referred to the people in the developed welfare states, who were satisfied because they knew they had access to justice.
Khan went on to talk about the budget and how it is going to cause utter distress, especially amongst the poor and the middle class. He also referred to the difficulty of retaining qualified professionals because of the unfair burden placed on them. He condemned the whole tax regime being propagated as being premised on injustice. “That is why there is no tax culture established in Pakistan despite the fact that Pakistanis are leading charity donors.”
Khan highlighted the lavish official lifestyle reflected in the government houses and other public symbols and asked “how on earth we could justify all this.”
About terrorism, the main scourge being faced by Pakistan today, he referred to different types of terrorism confronting the country. He said PTI’s solution to terrorism is to focus on root causes. “For nine years,” he said, “we have focused on a militaristic approach only and we know the result of that. The whole ‘war on terror’ has been fought by Pakistan on a lie! For dollars Pakistani government lied to its people.”
“If Pakistan has to win this war against terror, it has to take ownership and that means asserting its sovereignty. Drone attacks link Pakistan to the US war and anytime there is a chance of peace talks, drones rain in,” he said.
“Drone attacks need to be stopped not just because they are against the law, etc, but also because they link Pakistan with the US war. We need to delink and disengage from this war to rob militants of their narrative of jihad.”
Khan said if there is any agreement on drones it should be brought before the nation. He suggested that Pakistan needs to go to the anti-drone lobbies in the United States as well as the Un Security Council. “Shooting a drone is only the last option.”
“We need a comprehensive policy to stop drones and then move on to a national truth and reconciliation. We need a comprehensive counterterrorism policy against this number one scourge against the country,” he said.
Referring to the critical problem of corruption, the PTI chairman demanded the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) to be totally independent. He said the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government would do this with the provincial equivalent of the NAB. He demanded a conflict of interest law so that elected representatives separate themselves from their businesses. He said the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government is going to exactly do this.
The PTI chairman demanded declaration of assets and confiscation of assets discovered not to have been declared. About the issue of governance, he said unless civil service and police are depoliticized, the governance could not be rectified.
“We need a proper local government system where power devolves to the villages. The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government will be doing this shortly and will try to have elections through biometric system,” he said.
Referring to elections, Khan said the PTI had hoped fair and free elections. He pointed out how every party claimed rigging somewhere or the other in Pakistan after the last elections. People for the first time came out on the streets to protest rigging, he said. “We need to move forward. The Election Commission and Supreme Court investigate what happened in the elections. We want an independent investigation and use of verification by thumbprints. The Election Commission needs to be totally depoliticized. We saw new voters and a heavy turnout but if these voters lost faith in elections, Pakistan’s democracy will suffer,” he warned.
Khan requested the chief justice of Pakistan to take notice of the election irregularities as there has been a theft of the electoral mandate. “If we expose the truth, we will move on and not repeat our mistakes. We should have made public the Hamoodur Rehman Commission Report as well as have had a commission on Kargil and the US war on terror so we could have learnt from our mistakes,” he said.