Prime Minister Imran Khan on Tuesday stressed that Pakistan would “rise faster” next time the PTI government was elected.
He made the comment while speaking about economic growth figures at a ceremony in Ziarat. At the outset of his speech, the premier prayed for the families of four Frontier Corps soldiers who were martyred in a terrorist attack in Quetta a day earlier.
The premier said the country was “getting out of a very difficult time”, adding that the opposition parties had been “making noise” that his government would fail ever since it came to power.
“They [opposition parties] were afraid that if this government took Pakistan out of a difficult economic time, their political shops would be closed. They kept saying for over two years that our country and economy have been destroyed.”
Last year, the economic growth rate was projected at 0.5 per cent when “conditions were really bad” and analysts said a similar growth rate would be expected in the current fiscal year, the premier said.
However, when figures released by the National Accounts Committee last week — projecting 3.94 per cent economic growth this fiscal year — were made public, “the entire opposition said these figures were incorrect because if they were correct, it would mean the [opposition] had been lying,” he added.
Prime Minister Imran said his government “considers Balochistan ours” in a way that previous governments had not done. Previous governments had not spent money on the province’s development, he said, adding that his government would “use all of our resources in this difficult time” to ensure progress.
“We are under so much debt due to previous governments [that] all our money goes towards paying installments. We have very little money to spend on people. Despite this, we have given as much funds to Balochistan as we could have. My governments in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Punjab tell me often that [I] have been too generous towards Balochistan but the reason is that [the province] has really been ignored in the past,” he elaborated.
The money that was previously given to the province was not spent properly, the premier said, adding that if that had been the case, Balochistan’s “condition would be very different today”.
He said Ziarat could become a tourist hub which would increase the incomes of local people and reduce poverty. He gave the example of KP which he said had the “worst conditions” in 2013 when the PTI government came to power in the province.
“War on terror was going on, some 500 policemen had been martyred, there was no [rule of] law, the businesses had shut down. The biggest business [back then] was kidnapping for ransom.” However, the condition of the province was turned around because of tourism, the premier said.
“A UNDP (United Nations Development Programme) report said between 2013 and 2018, poverty in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa was reduced at the highest rate as compared to other provinces. The most money spent on people’s health and education was in KP.
“One of the biggest reasons for that was tourism,” he said, adding that the provincial government had “developed tourism fully”.
Another reason for KP’s progress was the provision of the health card, Prime Minister Imran said. “Because of the card, people could get treatment of up to Rs1 million at any hospital.”
Sharing the benefits of the scheme, he said that when people in villages had health insurance, the private sector built hospitals there and a network was laid. “You’re seeing a proper health system coming in Pakistan,” he added.
The premier asked Balochistan Chief Minister Jam Kamal Khan Alyani, who was also present on the occasion, to provide health cards to residents of the province.
In his speech, Alyani had requested the premier to ensure the provision of gas to Balochistan. Responding to the chief minister, Prime Minister Imran said he would discuss Alyani’s idea of establishing a LNG (liquefied natural gas) plant in the province.
“I will go and talk about its feasibility because you know our budget is nearly made. We will make full efforts to start work on this in the new fiscal year to make it easy for people here,” he said, adding that he was “not a king but a prime minister and could not throw bags of money around”.
The premier said despite reservations from Punjab and KP that he was being “too generous with Balochistan”, it was the government’s “responsibility to make full efforts” because the province had been ignored in the past.
“Pakistan’s development will only be in real terms when it is inclusive [and] when the whole country develops,” he iterated.
“I will keep coming here and checking the progress. We are giving another package for roads. We will give funds wherever there is room,” the premier concluded.