ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan reiterated on Thursday that he would not give any (National Reconciliation Ordinance) NRO-like concession to the opposition by accepting amendments it had proposed to the National Accountability Ordinance (NAO-1999).
“We will not be blackmailed by the opposition. We could have called a joint sitting of the parliament for the passage of the FATF-related bills if they had been opposed by the opposition,” the prime minister said during a luncheon he hosted for the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) parliamentarians at the Parliament House.
A PTI legislator told Dawn that the prime minister lashed out at the opposition for what he called its “exploitation” and “bargaining” for supporting the (Financial Action Task Force) FATF-related bills.
The PM said that out of 38 sections of NAO 1999, the opposition had demanded abolition of 34 so that their cases being pursued by NAB could be closed.
Says opposition demanded abolition of NAO’s 34 sections — out of 38 — so that their NAB cases can be closed
“They (opposition leaders) were claiming that they had never asked the PTI government for any NRO, but the amendments they have proposed are documentary evidence of seeking an NRO,” he added.
“The opposition tried to use the FATF-related bills as a ‘plea bargain’ by demanding abolition of 34 sections of the NAO,” the prime minister said, adding that the opposition leaders’ entire politics was based on “criminal” designs and their vested interests.
“Both [PPP chairman] Bilawal and [Leader of Opposition in the National Assembly] Shahbaz Sharif were claiming that they had never sought any NRO, but now their demands have been documented,” Mr Khan said.
He said the FATF-related amendments were imperative for a bright and secure future of the country. “We are just addressing mistakes of the past,” he added.
Prime Minister Khan said the opposition should support any legislation aimed to protect the national interest. “The opposition will be exposed if it prefers its own benefits over national interest,” he added.
Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi and Adviser to the PM on Accountability and Interior Shahzad Akbar, at a press conference on Wednesday, had termed the opposition-proposed amendments to the NAO 1999 as “NRO-plus”.
Mr Akbar had said the opposition’s proposed amendments were aimed at benefiting senior opposition leaders facing cases, including former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, his sons and daughter, Shahbaz Sharif and his sons, former president Asif Ali Zardari and his associates involved in the fake bank account scam, former prime minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, Khawaja Asif, Ahsan Iqbal, Syed Khurshid Shah, Faryal Talpur and those involved in the recent sugar scam (including PTI leader Jahangir Tareen).
“If the government signs these amendments, their cases will stand null and void,” Mr Akbar had said.
Offering concessions to the opposition of the era, the NRO was promulgated by the regime of former president Gen Pervez Musharraf after which Nawaz Sharif and Benazir Bhutto returned to the country from their ‘self exile’ to take active part in the country’s politics.
Earlier, the prime minister in the luncheon ceremony expressed confidence that the government was getting stronger. “The government is going nowhere rather it is getting stronger,” he said.
Rs1.3trn economic activities
In a separate meeting on construction sector, the prime minister was told that Rs1.3 trillion economic activities generating Rs1.3 trillion would be launched through investment to be made by 13 firms in construction industry during next four months.
The PM was chairing the weekly meeting of the National Coordination Committee for Housing, Construction and Development which was attended by 13 representatives of the ABAD through video-link.
“Thirteen representatives of the Association of Builders and Developers (ABAD) in the meeting pledged to initiate various projects in next three to four months, which would result in economic activity of Rs 1,370 billion,” said an official press release issued by the PM Office.
The projects of 13 firms include construction of about 100,000 residential units.
The prime minister expressed satisfaction over the assurance given by ABAD of taking advantage of the concessions given to the construction sector and starting economic activities worth billions of rupees.
The ABAD delegation said simplifying the no-objection certificate (NOC) issuance and permitting process had encouraged the people involved in construction industry.
Prime Minister Khan said development of construction sector could play a key role in minimising the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on national economy through jobs creation.
The prime minister said the government was providing all possible facilities for development of construction sector and urged the business community to take advantage of the opportunity by making investment.
The meeting reviewed the progress made by the government in construction sector along with the incentives announced for its promotion.
The ABAD representatives praised the prime minister for providing historic incentives and facilities in the field of construction. They said for the first time in the country’s history, builders and developers were being encouraged by private banks for construction activities.
The meeting was informed that the provincial governments of Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa had set up portals to streamline the application process of NOCs and other approvals in construction sector through online system and to ensure speedy disposal of applications pending for years.
The Punjab chief secretary gave a briefing about the portal’s features and modalities and processing of requests received from government agencies.
The prime minister was informed that e-service centres had been set up in nine divisions of Punjab to provide one-window facility to builders and developers. By Aug 14, the scope of e-service centres would be extended to all districts of the province.
It was highlighted that the portal gave a platform to developers and builders to submit online applications from their houses and offices to ensure timely decision-making.