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PM Shehbaz warns against vilifying state institutions



ISLAMABAD:

Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif on Tuesday said that those orchestrating a smear campaign against state institutions will be dealt with as per law.

The statement comes amid an ongoing online smear campaign tapping into the speculations around former prime minister Imran Khan’s ouster through joint efforts of the opposition.

The newly-elected premier expressed the views in a meeting with journalists at his first PM House news briefing, answering queries about issues his tenure inherits to grapple with, including the ‘Lettergate’ scandal, foreign relations, economic woes, electoral reforms and the alleged nexus between the NAB and former premier Imran Khan.

While speaking about short-, medium- and long-term plans to tame inflation and remedy the economic issues, PM Sharif stressed that the nations can’t progress merely by words and the only way to move forward was to “work and work”.

“Only prosperous nations take two-day off in a week; we will have to work on Sunday, too, but let’s leave it for completing household chores,” he quipped, “You guys will have to bring groceries as well.”

Shehbaz, who had once earned the title of ‘Shehbaz Speed’ from the Chinese for development work in Punjab under his tenure as chief minister, said that this time around “new developmental projects will be rolled out at ‘Pakistan Speed'”.

The prime minister repeated his announcement regarding the increase in salaries and pensions, changing the five-day working week into six days and his decision to bring people from all the provinces and turn the PM House into a ‘Pakistan House’.

Similarly, he also indicated that negotiations would be held to discuss the future of the governor of the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP).

To a question, Shehbaz said if the briefing on Kashmir, Afghanistan could be held in parliament, then why not the “Lettergate” scandal.

It is pertinent to mention that Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif had on Monday announced that he would be soon arranging an in-camera session of the parliamentary security committee to ascertain the facts involved in the purported foreign letter regarding alleged foreign interference into the country’s internal affairs.

During his maiden speech in the National Assembly after his election to the office of the prime minister, Shehbaz said that besides others, top military and intelligence brass and Pakistan’s ambassador would attend the meeting.

“On behalf of this House, I assure the nation that if any involvement is proved, I will not stay as prime minister for even a second and go home after tendering resignation,” he declared.

On the foreign affairs front, he said that his priority was to mend ties with all allies and neighbours of Pakistan as the previous government made things worse.

READ Putin congratulates Shehbaz on his election as PM

“I will work with all neighbours for the betterment of the environment, including India, but ties with India are subject to the Kashmir issue,” he said, adding he has already advised Indian PM Narendra Modi to resolve the Kashmir issue and move towards a lasting peace between the countries and in the region.

He was of the opinion that Imran Khan has even angered the countries once considered friendly.
Shehbaz, who has been under the constant radar of the Imran-led government’s accountability drive, recalled his days spent in incarceration but repeatedly made it clear that his dictionary was devoid of the word “revenge”, saying only the law will take its course.

“Everyone is allowed to engage in political activities, we will not allow chaos,” he added.
He stressed that neither he would instruct anyone what the law should do nor anyone should ask for directions.

Shehbaz underscored that every institution should work within the defined boundaries, revealing he has directed bureaucracy to deal with everything on merit. “Nothing but merit,” he asserted.

The PM also deplored the former government’s aggressive and “unjust” accountability drive, saying that the actions of the “NAB-Niazi nexus” lay bare in front of everyone and were badly exposed in the last few years.

Speaking about the tenure of the new government – a matter which remains subject to curious speculations – PM Shehbaz said that the remaining term of the parliament was a one-and-a-half years but the allies of the government would finally decide how long the period should stay in power before the country goes for new elections. He, however, revealed that PML-N was in favour of going for the electins soon after the electoral reforms were done.

PML-N supremo Nawaz Sharif will finalize the portfolios of PML-N ministers, he shared.
For some, the incumbent premier appeared completely relaxed but for others, he dodged several questions instead of giving clear answers. About the tenure of the government, he repeatedly quipped, “as long as you would say I will continue”.

On the renewal of Nawaz Sharif’s passport and his return, Shehbaz said that the former is a Pakistani and it is his right to have the passport, saying he would return to Pakistan only when the doctors allow him to travel – a stance that PML-N has taken since his departure to London in November 2019 on health grounds.

On the first day in office on Tuesday, Shehbaz Sharif reset the schedule of the working of the Prime Minister’s Office – starting the day at 8am while the office will remain open for six days of the week instead of five.

READ Let’s secure peace for socio-economic uplift, PM Shehbaz tells Modi

PM Shehbaz arrived at the PM Office to formally start his duties as the chief executive of the country. He was presented guard of honour by a smartly turned-out contingent of the armed forces. Later, he was introduced to the PM Office staff.

He reached the office at 8 am, two hours before the scheduled office hours of 10am. The prime minister ordered for starting the government offices at 8am.

During the interaction with his staff, the prime minister directed the officials to get into action for robust performance.

He told his staff that “diligence, honesty, and transparency” were his guiding principles, adding that serving the people of Pakistan was his topmost priority.

Shehbaz assumed the responsibilities at his office at 8 pm – much earlier than the Ramazan working hours of 10 am – saying that he did not want to waste any amount of the time without serving the masses. He ordered a single weekly off for the public departments instead of the earlier two days.

Consequently, upon the prime minister’s orders, the Establishment Division issued a notification, saying that the government offices would be opened from Monday through Thursday and Saturday from 8 to 3 pm and from 8 am to 1 pm on Friday.

Shehbaz also started work on implementing the relief measures he had announced in his speech in the National Assembly on Monday. He issued directives to ensure relief for the masses, including the provision of low-cost edible items at Sasta bazaars and also stressed its strict monitoring.

Shehbaz said that he would not tolerate any irresponsibility in ensuring the provision of inexpensive commodities to the general public. He also ordered the officials concerned to implement his announcement of a 10% increase in pensions and fixing the minimum wages at Rs25,000 per month.



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