ISLAMABAD/LAHORE - Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif said Monday that the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) led coalition government had kept national interest above political interest and saved the country from default. While addressing a press conference along with federal ministers here, the prime minister that they tried to give subsidy to poor people and 1800 billion rupee Kissan Package is a case in point. He said that the government is strenuously working to rehabilitate the flood affected people which is a big challenge. He straightforwardly rejected “any threats” of country’s default. The prime minister said UK newspaper Daily Mail’s unconditional apology is a success of Pakistanis especially those poor children and mothers who were benefiting from the aid money that was targeted. He said it was such a heartless campaign initiated by PTI that they didn’t bother to think about dignity of the country in their malice of defaming the Sharif family. Shehbaz Sharif also said this malicious campaign also damaged Pakistan as mistrust was created regarding any funding to our country. He said the PTI’s four year tenure was a period of political victimisation. Imran Niazi and his aides provided thousands of documents to the UK’s National Crime Agency but after two years of investigations, they acquitted him in the case. He said Daily Mail’s article mentioned that money amounting to 600 million pounds by DFID to Punjab during 2008 to 2018 was laundered by Shehbaz Sharif and his children. The prime minister made it clear and said contrary to that, the money was used transparently, and after I sent legal notice to the paper, it lingered in litigation for three years but finally this episode ended up in an unconditional apology. ‘A cHEAp MovE’ Once again, PM Shehbaz lashed out at former prime minister Imran Khan for selling state gifts from Toshakhana stating that Imran Khan sold the one-ofa-kind watch that Saudi Crown Prince Muhammad Bin Salman had gifted him personally with “Kaaba” picture on its dial, when he was the prime minister. “The selling of the watch by Imran Khan was a cheap move,’’ the prime minister said, adding that nobody can deny that the watch was not sold. “The shop owner, whose receipts that PTI showed relating to the watch has also clarified that it is not his handwriting on the receipt,” PM Shehbaz claimed. The prime minister called for “introspection” to understand how such a person ruled Pakistan, who did not only commit “fraud”, but damaged Pakistan on two important fronts, foreign policy and economy. PM Shehbaz castigated former PM Imran Khan and said that the Imran Khan tried to malign Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) Quaid Nawaz Sharif, his family, and his party by levelling baseless allegations. “Panama Papers case was lodged against Nawaz Sharif but he was handed down punishment in Iqama”, the prime minister said. The prime minister claimed that the name of Mian Nawaz Sharif was not mentioned in the Panama Papers case hence the Iqama issue was added to the case. During the last days of his tenure, he said, Imran Khan laid landmines for the upcoming government by not passing on the burden of petroleum prices to the consumers. To a question about the former army chief, the prime minister said that since General (retired) Qamar Javed Bajwa has hung up his boots, he should be allowed to live in peace and he should not be discussed any more. He alleged that Imran Khan betrayed General retired Bajwa, who (Bajwa) was kind to him (Imran Khan) throughout his tenure as army chief. Also, the prime minister said Finance Minister Ishaq Dar had met President Arif Alvi with his permission. “We will move 100 steps forward for the country’s stability. But it takes two to tango. The nations face such a situation when we have to sacrifice. But what kind of talks can be held with an egoistic and liar person who even defames the army… I want to tell the people that this person is a fraud having nothing to do with the nation’s future,” he said and called for setting aside the differences for the country’s progress. However, PM Shebaz questioned what talks could be held with “an egoistic and liar person who even defames the army”. “I want to tell the people that this person is a fraud having nothing to do with the nation’s future,” he said. But at the same time, the premier called for setting aside differences for the country’s progress. He said the previous government “ridiculed” his idea of a Charter of Economy and misconstrued it as a desire to seek a national reconciliation ordinance-type (NRO) agreement. Shehbaz Sharif also mentioned an article published by the Financial Times accusing Imran Khan of spending donations collected for the Shaukat Khanum Hospital on his politics. He said during his government, Imran Khan got arrested even female politicians like Maryam Nawaz and Faryal Talpur but contrarily, gave an NRO (National Reconciliation Ordinance) to his own sister through the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) though she had committed misdeclaration. Prime Minister Shehbaz said the government had disbursed Rs 70 billion among the flood-hit families through BISP (Benazir Income Support Programme) and spent billions of others through the NDMA (National Disaster Management Authority) to supply food packages, tents, and mosquito nets. Besides, Rs 400 million were also given in form of compensation for the life losses, he added. “With the onset of the winter season, a huge challenge is still ahead. Don’t know where the money will come from (to support the reconstruction),” he added. He said instead of spreading a rhetoric of Pakistan becoming another Sri Lanka, Imran Khan should give an account for the sugar mill and wheat scandals. To another question, the prime minister said Imran Khan also showed unthankfulness to his benefactor ex-army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa. He said the new army chief is a professional soldier with a shining career and hoped that he would strengthen the institution and serve the country. To another query, PM Shehbaz said former PM Nawaz Sharif, who had millions of followers in Pakistan, would be back to the country very soon. About the oil prices, he said the government discussed the matter fortnightly and made its level best not to further burden the people. It would surely pass on the relief as it found some cushion, he added. ‘Back on track’ Briefing the newsmen on economic situation of the country, Finance Minister Ishaq Dar said PTI destroyed the economy but we are trying to put it back on track. He said there is no threat of country going to default. Ishaq Dar also said that some elements were peddling a false narrative that Pakistan was about to default or might have already reached that point. Providing the data when the PML-N handed over the government to PTI, Dar said inflation was between 4.6pc to 4.8pc, the food inflation stood at 2pc, GDP growth was 6.1pc, the stock market was among the best-performing markets in the world, and the policy rate was at 6.5pc. “These were among the core things that he received. Rs 25,000 billion was the overall loan that they were handed over from the previous government — but they claimed that it stood at Rs 30,000 billion.” Dar said the PTI government would tell investors and friendly countries that it was in a “debt trap” and that the previous governments were “corrupt”. The PML-N senator said while telling the global community that Pakistan was in a “debt trap”, the PTI government expected international investors to invest their money in the country. “Who would do that?” Dar claimed that in line with the PTI’s promises, its government had to cut down the loans by Rs10,000 billion — from Rs25,000 to Rs15,000. “But that wasn’t the case.” He further said that during the PTI government, inflation skyrocketed, the rupee fell massively against the dollar, increased the loans drastically to Rs 44,500 billion or an increase of 75pc. “Their government was confused. They did not have a revenue plan [...] and they also pushed the country to the brink of default,” the finance minister said, claiming that PTI preferred politics over the state. Dar said PTI installed “land mines” in terms of economy as they did not meet the commitments made with the International Monetary Fund (IMF). “This devastated the economy.” But despite PTI’s bad policies, Dar said the incumbent government was quick to move the Fund and take unpopular decisions for the economy’s revival. “Pakistan will not default. The prime minister has taken bold decisions so there is no reason as to why Pakistan will default,” the finance minister added.