WASHINGTON - Prime Minister Imran Khan Sunday said the previous rulers would have to return the looted money if they wanted to get rid of jail or go abroad.

Khan said the opposition leaders facing corruption cases wanted an NRO, but he would not rest until his government recovered the looted national wealth. 

He particularly referred to jailed former prime minister Nawaz Sharif and former president Asif Ali Zardari and said they had a way out, which was simply to return the looted public money.

He also announced to withdraw the A-class jail facilities from Sharif and Zardari and jail them along with the ordinary prisoners. The PM said after going back to Pakistan, he would remove the TV and AC from their jail cells.

“Now Nawaz Sharif says he would take home-cooked food for jail’s food is not being good. Then they want an air conditioner and a TV. Eighty percent Pakistanis don’t have air conditioners. At least 60 percent have no TV. This is not the jail punishment which they live in,” he remarked addressing the biggest ever gathering of Pakistani-American community in Capital One Arena of Washington DC. “I know Maryam Bibi will make a hue and cry. But they (Nawaz and Zardari) can go abroad if they return looted public money,” he said.

Says will remove TV, AC facilities from jailed Nawaz, Zardari; Decides to reform cricket after World Cup disappointment

“This is Tabdeeli (change). In Pakistan, law never accounted the influential ones. This is Tabdeeli. This will raise the nation and make the Pakistan a great country”

Far-reaching reforms

Prime Minister Khan also assured that his government was committed to introducing far-reaching reforms to transform Pakistan into a vibrant democratic country where merit would be respected with economic opportunities for all.

“We will change the system so that it runs on merit, and where everyone gets an opportunity to prosper,” he told an enthusiastic crowd.

The prime minister’s address to a large public gathering marked an unprecedented occasion for the Pakistani-American community. The crowd cheered the prime minister as he reiterated his pledge to root out corruption – a major issue in his political rise.  “We will pull our country out of its current difficulties,” Khan said referring to economic challenges his government had inherited.

The prime minister, who is in Washington for his first parleys with US President Donald Trump at the White House, particularly talked about streamlining the education system.

He said the government was planning to introduce modern subjects like science in Madrassas (seminaries) so that the poor might also have a better economic opportunity.

On economic reforms, he underscored the need for improving Pakistan’s tax to GDP ratio and facilitating investment.

Khan said Pakistan had been blessed with massive natural wealth and human talent, but politics of inheritance and corruption had kept the country from making use of the same.

“Pakistan has $200 billion copper deposits, mammoth reserves of coal, but corruption has held us back.”

The prime minister said Pakistan’s founding father envisaged it to be a welfare state on the mode of State of Madina, where rulers were accountable, and people shared their wealth through Zakat.

“We want to build a nation. We want to bring a change for the better. Merit will become a reality when we get rid of the rule of families,” he said, citing the example of the United States where the system recognises merit.

“There is a difference between a democracy and a kingdom. Democracy honours merit but we have a system that serves the elite,” he added.

He said the government would reform all the loss-making entities it had inherited including the PIA, Railways, power and gas sectors. “There is a bit difficult time of four to six months or a year. We will get Pakistan out of it and make its self-dependent,” the prime minister added.

Reiterating his government’s stance of documentation of the national economy, he warned the traders that they would have to pay taxes to make the country pay back the hefty loans which had swelled from Rs 6,000 billion to Rs 30,000 billion during the last ten years.

The prime minister said his government would ensure a clean environment to do business. “I promise that foreign companies will flow into Pakistan. We will end corruption, attract investment and make progress, we will have industrial growth. We will never ignore Pakistan’s potential.”

Cricket reforms

The prime minister also announced to reform the Pakistani cricket and assured the community that in the next World Cup, they would see an efficient and capable team in the field.

“After the World Cup, I have decided, I am going to reform cricket.  Much of disappointment has been faced. Remember my words, Insha Allah, in the next World Cup, we will bring a professional and the best team.”

“We have to found our country on principles. Allah has bestowed our people with such a talent that they excel wherever they go,” said the prime minister, who had captained the 1992 World Cup wining team.  He said he had learned cricket in England and had taught other Pakistani players to raise their standard.

The prime minister said he would reform the system to give an opportunity to the talented players in cricket and other sports. He was appreciative of the Australian cricket body, which he said, chose the talented players from across the country.

‘Won’t let nation down’

Khan also assured the nation that he would put their case before President Trump and would neither embarrass them nor let them down before any one.

He said since very first day he had been opposing the military solution in Afghanistan for what he was heavily criticized.

“What you want me to say to talk to Trump…I am proud that … now the whole world is saying that Afghanistan has no military solution. Insha Allah, I will put your case before Donald Trump. I will not embarrass you, Insha Allah,” he added. The prime minister told the charged gathering holding party flags that while coming into politics some 23 years ago he has never bowed down before anyone except Allah and Insha Allah would not let his nation down before anyone.