KARACHI/ISLAMABAD               -         Prime Minister Imran Khan has expressed the resolve to fully protect the interests of the business community through an ordinance promulgated to insulate traders from the National Accountability Bureau’s (NAB) action.

Addressing the Awards distribution ceremony of Pakistan Stock Exchange in Karachi on Friday evening, the prime minister said the NAB should scrutinise only public office holders and stay away from the business community.

As the prime minister was speaking in Karachi, President Dr Arif Alvi gave his assent to the National Accountability Bureau Ordinance, 2019 which comes into force with immediate effect.

According to informed sources, the ordinance was duly approved by the federal cabinet through circulation earlier yesterday.

NAB under the new ordinance will now only be able to proceed in corruption cases of Rs500 million and above. According to the amended ordinance, NAB has been barred from taking action against government employees in case of departmental deficiencies.

It also states that the property of government employees cannot be frozen unless ordered by the court and if the NAB investigation is incomplete after three months, the arrested public servant will

 be entitled to bail.

Moreover, according to the amended ordinance, NAB’s jurisdiction over matters relating to tax, stock exchange and IPOs has been curtailed.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation, Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan and building control authorities will be the sole authorities tasked to act on all such matters.

In addition, for land evaluation purposes, NAB will seek guidance from the Federal Board of Revenue or the District Collector.

Earlier, the prime minister’s office sent the copy of proposed amendments in the NAB Ordinance to all ministers and sought their input in this regard. The prime minister wanted to introduce amendments in NAB Ordinance 1999 and he had sought suggestions from them.

Highlighting the importance of traders and investors in turning Pakistan into an economically strong and welfare state as envisioned by the country’s founding fathers, Imran told the businessmen at Karachi Stock Exchange that the government would extend all possible facilities to the business community in that respect.

“Our Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him) was also a trader,” he said.

Referring to the fear of any action or probe by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) against traders, Imran said the government had promulgated an ordinance, insulating the businessmen from any NAB action. “Our contention is that NAB’s job is to hold the scrutiny of public office-holders. For the scrutiny of businessmen, there are other institutions, including the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR),” he said and congratulated the business community on this development.

He said the vision of Pakistan, which was also provided in the Objectives Resolution, was based on the principles of Madinah State. The two basic fundamentals of that vision, he said, were compassion and justice. Any country could be turned into an independent and great nation by following the two principles.

The State of Madinah, which was run on those two basic fundamentals, defeated the two superpowers of that era and transformed the Muslims into a great nation that ruled the world for 700 years, he added.

Imran said the same vision provided a direction and roadmap to achieve the objectives of Pakistan’s creation, and the businessmen and traders had an important role in that regard through wealth creation.

He cited a modern-era example of China, which focused on trade and wealth creation, and lifted 700 million people out of poverty in 30 years. The government’s job was to facilitate and the traders had to focus on wealth creation, he stressed.

He said the present government during the last one year alone had got the country improved in terms of ease of doing business in the world by 28 points as against the previous government’s 2013-18 tenure when Pakistan was put on the brink of economic and institutional collapse.

Rejecting the criticism over him for referring the past situation, he said his government did not inherit the economy of Sweden, rather the country was faced with the situation of Rs30 trillion loans.

Imran said besides presenting his government’s performance before the nation, he would continue to remind the people of past economic situation over the next four years.

Assuring the traders of more steps for ‘ease of doing business’, Imran said if the businessmen and investors prospered, the country would flourish, and achieve economic growth and development.

He said the introduction of socialist system, though it was better in terms of welfare of masses, in 1960s changed the mindset and profit-making was considered as a bad thing. “There is a difference between profiteering and profit-making,” he said, adding his government was changing that mindset to attract the investors.

Imran said 2019 was a difficult year for the government, which despite the challenges of depleting foreign exchange reserves, pressure on rupee, repayment of $10 billion loans and fear of default, stabilised the economy. But now with the incentives for industry and specially focusing on the revival of Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs), 2020 would be the year of growth and jobs creation through encouraging investors, he added.

Imran referred to a report of the United Kingdom based Conde Nast magazine, which listed Pakistan as a top travel and tourism destination, and stressed on the need of exploring and exploiting that huge potential.

Only the Northern Areas of Pakistan were double in size than Switzerland that earned $80 billion per annum from tourism, he said, adding Pakistan having historic religious and heritage sites across the country as well as sandy beaches at the Makran Coast had a lot of tourism potential.

Besides the significant increase in domestic tourism, he said millions of Pakistani expatriates, due to Islamophobia in the West, were showing interest in the country’s tourist sites and wanted to come with their families during the holidays.

He urged the business community to explore and exploit the avenue of tourism by investing in the development of tourist resorts in the country.

Later, talking to a delegation of distinguished businessmen and traders, Imran Khan said in order to ensure ease of doing business in the country, the present government was fully focused on the creation of business-friendly environment.

With the business community being an important pillar of the country’s economic development, the achievement of true progress was only possible with the investment by the private sector, he added.

The delegation comprised President of American Business Council Adnan Asad, Pakistan Business Council Chairman Yawar Ali and Chief Operating Officer (CEO) Ahsan Malik, Siraj Qasim Taili, Karachi Chamber of Commerce and Industry President Agha Shahab, Arif Habeeb, Mirza Iftikhar Baig, Khalid Masood, Zahid Syed and others.

Imran said with the economy stabilizing and economic indicators improving, international institutions, including Moody’s, had termed Pakistan’s economic situation as stable. The government’s economic team was working tirelessly to provide more ease to the business community, he added.

He said the government’s doors were always open for the businessman. Soon after coming into power, his government initiated a consultation process with them which was continuing till date, he added. The suggestions of businessmen and traders, he said, were very important for the government.

The government also wanted to have partnership with the private sector in development projects so as to take the process of development and public welfare ahead simultaneously, he added.

Imran said cooperation between the government and investors in advancing the development process was a good omen for them.

MEETING WITH PTI LEADERS

Imran Khan urged the PTI members of national and provincial assemblies belonging to Sindh to focus on the resolution of problems faced by the people of their respective constituencies.

Talking to the PTI legislators, he said the party’s long struggle was aimed at serving the poor masses and protecting them, and the members should specially focus on the areas of interior Sindh, which were faced with the utmost poverty.

Imran said the opposition was making a hue and cry because of their corruption caught by the government.

The delegation included Firdous Shamim Naqvi, Haleem Adil, Saeed Afridi, Ashraf Qureshi, Alamgir Khan, Ataullah Khan, Caption ® Jameel Khan, Faheem Khan, Lal Chand Malhi, Akram Cheema, Aslam Khan, Najeeb Haroon, Saifur Rehman Mehsood, Ramesh Kumar, Nusrat Wahid, Nuzhat Pathan, Abdul Shakoor Shad and Samia Nadeem.