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Will enter into talks with all neighbours to bring peace in Pakistan: PM Imran Khan

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Imran Khan

Islamabad | Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan today said that the country will enter into talks with all neighbours to normalise ties, as without it peace can’t be brought in the country.

In his an-hour-long maiden address to the nation a day after his swearing in as the country’s 22nd prime minister, Khan identified Pakistan’s challenges on the economic front, announced sweeping changes to bring austerity and revive stagnant economy.

He also lashed out at the previous PML-N government for current debt crisis which has risen to Rs 28 trillion, saying the country had not been as indebted in its entire history as it has been in the last ten years.

“I have talked to all neighbours and Insha Allah, we will improve relations with all neighbours. Without peace (with neighbours) we cannot bring peace in Pakistan,” he said.

Khan, who made an extempore speech while taking help of notes, promised to start the change from his life.

Outlining his governments approach to resolve the issues, Khan stressed on taking austerity measures, working on tax reforms instead of taking loans, rooting out corruption.

He also spoke about revamping the judiciary, educational and health care reforms, civil service reforms, devolution of power, providing jobs opportunity to youths and building dams to end water crisis.

“Never in Pakistan’s history have we faced such difficult economic circumstances. Our debt burden is Rs 28 trillion. We haven’t been as indebted in our entire history as we have been in the last ten years,” he said.

“The interest that we have to pay on our debt has reached to a level that we have to take more debt to repay our obligations. Our external debt obligations have reached a level that we have to contemplate how we are going to grapple with them,” Khan said.

“On one hand we are so indebted, and on the other hand our human development index ranking is very poor,” he said.

“I will not do any business and live a simple life. Those making illegal money are my enemies. You should help me to identify them and stop them,” he said.

He said that he will live in a three-bedroom residence within the official PM House, a place that was reserved for the Military Secretary but Khan has decided to live there. He announced to transform the sprawling PM House into a modern university.

He said there were 524 workers and officials deputed at the PM House but he will keep only two of them.

Out of the 80 vehicles, including 33 bullet proof vehicles, he said he will use only two of them and auction the rest and deposit the money into the national treasury.

Khan said PTI formed governments in Punjab and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and his governors and chief ministers will not live in palatial official houses.

He said the economy was in bad shape due to debt heaped by the past government. He said 10 years ago, the total debt of the country was Rs 6 trillion which has increased to Rs 28 trillion.

He spoke about the poor human development index of Pakistan and said more than 23 million children were out of schools and 45 per cent children had stunted growth.

Khan once again promised to transform Pakistan into the state of Median which was set up by the Prophet in early years of Islam.

He said Medina state was set up on the principles of rule of law, protection of rights of minorities, progressive taxation, based on merit, education for all and honest leadership.

Khan promised to reform the tax collection machinery, police, judiciary, education system, health and anti-corruption bodies.

He announced to deal with the corrupt elements with iron hand and said all wealth of the country stashed abroad by rich Pakistanis will be brought back.

The prime minister asked overseas Pakistanis to park their money in Pakistani banks and invest here assuring them that their investments will be safe in his government. He promised to facilitate the investors.

Khan announced setting up a task force to cut down the expenses of the government. He also said that he will meet the Chief Justice of Pakistan to draw up a scheme for speedy justice so that all cases were decided within in year.

He also said that civil servants will be rewarded and punished on the basis of their performance.

He also announced to make Pakistan a true welfare state.

“We want to make Pakistan a welfare state. For this we should create compassion in our hearts.”

Khan said that he wished that the PM House be turned into a research university, he will form a committee to figure out how to cut expenses nationwide.

“I also want you to understand that the money we lavish on ourselves could have been spent on those who our state has left behind. ‘Naya’ Pakistan also requires a new ‘soch’ (thinking). We have to think about those who we have left behind,” he said.

On tax reforms, he said instead of trying to rebuild the economy by taking external loans, his government will try and fulfil its needs from within.

“No country can succeed by taking on debt again and again. Debts are taken for brief periods of time. I will be ashamed to go abroad and ask for money. If the leader of the nation has to go and ask for debt, what will my nation be?” Khan added.

He said only 800,000 people out of 200 million pay taxes in Pakistan.

“We will fix the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) and assure the nation that I will be responsible for your taxes. It is your responsibility to pay taxes. If we start paying taxes we will get out of deficit,” he said.

He termed money laundering as the biggest problem.

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China blasts US ‘bullying’ with Huawei CFO extradition bid

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US; China

Beijing | China on Wednesday accused the United States of “bullying behaviour” after US authorities confirmed plans to seek the extradition of a top Chinese telecom executive detained in Canada.

The United States faces a January 30 deadline to file an extradition request for Huawei chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou, whose arrest last month sparked diplomatic tensions.

“We will continue to pursue the extradition of defendant Ms Meng Wanzhou, and will meet all deadlines set by the US/Canada Extradition Treaty,” said US Justice Department spokesman Marc Raimondi on Tuesday.

Meng, the daughter of Huawei’s founder, was arrested at Vancouver airport on December 1 at the request of the United States, which says she violated American sanctions on Iran.

She has since been freed on Can 10 million (US 7.5 million) bail and is awaiting a hearing on her extradition.

According to the agreement between the two countries, the United States has 60 days after an arrest made at its request in Canada to formalise an extradition request.

Once a request has been submitted, the Canadian justice ministry has 30 days to begin official extradition proceedings, though the process can take months or years.

China, which has defended both Huawei and Meng since the CFO’s arrest, criticised the US extradition request as without “legitimate reason” and “not in conformity with international law”.

“This is a type of technological bullying behaviour and everyone can clearly see the real purpose,” said Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying at a regular press briefing.

The US “will stop at nothing to suppress Chinese high-tech enterprises and restrain China’s legitimate development rights”, she added.

Meng’s arrest has sparked an escalating diplomatic crisis between Ottawa and Beijing.

Two Canadians have since been detained in China on national security grounds, in what is thought to be retaliation for the arrest.

A Chinese court also this month sentenced a Canadian man to death for drug trafficking following a retrial, a drastic increase of his previous 15-year prison sentence.

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Indian couple who fell to their deaths from cliff in US were intoxicated: Autopsy report

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New York | An Indian couple, who fell to their deaths in October reportedly while taking a selfie at a steep cliff in California’s Yosemite National Park, were intoxicated at the time of the tragic fall, according to an autopsy report.

Vishnu Viswanath, 29, and his wife, Meenakshi Moorthy, 30, were “intoxicated with ethyl alcohol” prior to falling 800 feet from Taft Point on October 25, but no drugs were present in their bodies, according to the autopsy report. Ethyl alcohol is found in alcoholic beverages such as beer, wine and hard liquor.

Due to the condition of the bodies after the extreme fall, investigators were unable to accurately discern a specific level of intoxication, Andrea Stewart, assistant Mariposa County coroner said.

“All we can conclude is that they had been drinking and that they had alcohol in their systems. We don’t know how much,” Stewart was quoted as saying by Mercury News.

The couple from Kerala died “of multiple injuries to the head, neck, chest and abdomen, sustained by a fall from a mountain”, the report said.

The couple had been married since 2014. Both graduated in 2010 from the College of Engineering, Chengannur, in Kerala. Viswanath was a software engineer with Cisco India at the company’s headquarters in Silicon Valley.

Moorthy and Viswanath who showcased their adventure-seeking travels on Instagram had set up a tripod at Taft Point before they fell 800 feet down the side of a steep cliff.

The tripod was later discovered on the edge of the overlook. Viswanath’s brother, Jishnu Viswanath said it appeared the couple died trying to take a photo.

Viswanath and his wife Moorthy, travelled the world documenting their trips to locales like the Grand Canyon, Paris, New York City, Niagara Falls, London, Big Sur and other scenic destinations.

Just months before her tragic death, Moorthy had warned in an Instagram post the dangers of taking photographs on the edge of cliffs and atop skyscrapers.

She posted a picture of herself at the Grand Canyon, saying in the caption that A lot of us including yours truly is a fan of daredevilry attempts of standing at the edge of cliffs. But did you know that wind gusts can be fatal? Is our life worth one photo?

In an eerie coincidence, Moorthy appears in the selfie of another tourist couple at Taft Point, just minutes before she plummeted to her death.

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International

US lawmakers reintroduce legislation enforcing fair trade with China

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US; China

Washington | Two US lawmakers — one each from the Republican and the Democratic party — on Wednesday reintroduced a legislation in the House of Representatives to safeguard American assets from Chinese influence and possession, as well as protect American businesses from China’s tools of economic aggression.

Reintroduced by Congressman Tim Ryan and Mike Conaway, the Fair Trade with China Enforcement Act is the companion legislation to a similar legislation introduced by Senators Mark Warner and Marco Rubio in the Senate.

“Our imbalanced trade relationship with China poses profound national and economic security risks to the United States. The bipartisan Fair Trade with China Enforcement Act would help correct our trade imbalances with China and give American workers a level playing field to compete and succeed,” said Ryan.

This legislation would further strengthen the American position by safeguarding our assets from Chinese influence and possession, and blunting China’s tools of economic aggression, he added.

“While the United States is operating on a 24-hour news cycle, China has a long-term plan reaching 50 to 100 years. We need to get ahead of the game and strengthen our economy, and this legislation will put us on that path forward,” Ryan said.

Conaway said Beijing’s ‘Made in China 2025’ initiative has made it clear that the Chinese government’s objective is to drive American companies out of business and move their technology and jobs to China at any cost, including the use of illegal trade practices.

This legislation takes the important step of barring the sale of national security sensitive US intellectual property and technology to China, as well as ensuring that China is paying its fair share in taxes, the lawmaker said.

“This bill also keeps the focus on the national security threats posed by Huawei and ZTE , as China frequently uses commercial technology as a vessel to spy on the US government. Allowing them access to our networks would be an enormous security risk and a massive mistake,” Conaway said.

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