ISLAMABAD - Prime Minister Imran Khan Saturday announced that the government will soon launch a full-fledged crackdown against the money laundering by plugging the loopholes in the system left by the previous governments.

Money laundering was the biggest financial malaise of Pakistan and the real reason behind the dollar appreciation, said the prime minister while addressing the National Assembly, after the House concluded the passage of the annual budget 2019-20.

“Today, money laundering is the biggest curse in the country. Because you cannot keep it (money) in Pakistan, so you launder it abroad to conceal it. You inflict double loss to country   first by looting and then by sending it through Havala or Hundi in dollars,” he said.

According to the data collected by the government, even the resident Pakistanis had stashed around $10 billion abroad, said Khan, who entered the house at fag end of the budget session.

The prime minister held the past ruling elite responsible for rupee depreciation, and alleged that they siphoned off dollars from Pakistan.

“Opposition leader (Shehbaz Sharif) is misleading the masses about rupee devaluation, as he in his speech he blamed us (PTI government) for it, but he did not share (with the house) that the present government inherited the largest current accounts deficit in Pakistan’s history (of $19.5 billion),” he said.

Referring to the money laundering cases involving former president Asif Ali Zardari and former prime minister Nawaz Sharif and his family, Imran Khan said when the ruling class was involved in money laundering, how the common people could be stopped from doing so.

He alleged the ‘Zardari family’ had laundered money out of the country through ‘Hundi and Hawala’ and the Sharif family did so by means of ‘Hill Metal Establishment’ and ‘Hudaibiya Paper Mills’. Even fake accounts were used for this purpose, he added.

Prime Minister Khan vowed to eliminated this malaise from the country. "All means and ways of money laundering will be closed. This government is supporting overseas Pakistanis and our remittances are increasing," he said.

About Leader of Opposition in National Assembly Shehbaz Sharif, Imran Khan said a man facing charges of corruption was made head of the supreme accountability body of the Parliament, the Public Accounts Committee (PAC).

In western democracies the parliamentarians are called ‘public representatives’ as they are protectors of the public interest, he said. In established democracies a public representative carrying even a little stigma of corruption cannot even appear on TV, he added.

Interestingly, the government and opposition, in the first six months of this assembly, could not resolve the issue of appointment of PAC chairman; but, in the end, the PTI government succumbed to the opposition pressure and agreed giving the slot to PML-N president.

About the usage of word ‘selected PM’ about him, Imran Khan remarked: “People who themselves were raised in the nursery of military dictators are calling him selected today."

He also criticised religio-political opposition party JUI-F and called its chief Fazlur Rehman "the 12th man of politics who goes around gathering people to topple the government every other day".

He also congratulated his team and party members for actively participating in the budget session.

Lauding the speech of Minister for Communication Murad Saeed in the house, the PM said former US secretary of state Condoleeza Rice had mentioned in her biography that the US wanted these people (the PML-N and PPP) in power because they protected Washington’s interests.

Murad, other day, in his speech on budgetary allocation, had given the reference of Condoleeza Rice's book in the house.

About the federal budget, he said his government had made all-out efforts not to put burden on the poor segments of society. “We are passing through a difficult time.... Measures are being taken to protect the poor,” he said. Here, he appreciated Minister of State for Revenue Hammad Azhar, saying that he deserves being promoted to federal minister.

About the budgetary measures, the prime minister said a subsidy of Rs217 billion has been given to protect the 75 percent consumers of electricity. "We have managed to reduce the current account deficit by 30 percent," he said.

Lauding the support of PTI’s allied partners, Khan said that all-out efforts would be made for the development of Balochistan and Fata.

The prime minister thanked the armed forces for freezing their chunk of the budget 2019-20. Despite the fact that Pakistan continues to face cross-border terrorism and that "our soldiers lay down their lives, they froze their budget just because Pakistan is going through difficult time,” he said.

“General Qamar Javed Bajwa has told me the funds saved from the defence budget be spent on the welfare of Balochistan and erstwhile Fata,” Imran Khan shared with the house.

"We have (also) tried to bring a special Rs45 billion package for Karachi, although it is the provincial government's responsibility," he said.

"City administrations, like rest of the world, need to raise their own funds. Karachi only raises $21 million," the PM said, adding that the new local government system, which has been launched in KP and Punjab, will empower the port city administrations and help is raise their own funds.