PAKISTAN says Malaysia will be its key ally in battling the scourge of corruption within its ranks and tackling the rising wave of Islamophobia around the world.
Appreciating the concerns of the South Asian country of 197 million people, Malaysia extended its helping hand, saying there was no better time to work together to root out both evils.
Standing beside his “idol” for the second time in four months since his trip to Kuala Lumpur, Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan spoke of how he was inspired by Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s words and deeds, and for his courage to act against corruption.
“We firmly believe that nations are not poor, rather it is corruption that leads to a loss of resources. Corruption destroys institutions and negates efforts for human development,” Imran told a joint press conference with Dr Mahathir at the Prime Minister’s House here yesterday.
“My party, the PTI, started a campaign against corruption 22 years ago and our drive continues with even greater strength. Dr Mahathir is our prime inspiration,” added Imran, who like the Malaysian leader, swept to power last July on a populist anti-graft election platform.
Saying corruption was “eating away this country like a cancer”, the cricket idol-turned-politician had pledged to end decades of what he called the Sharif and Bhutto families’ corruption and misrule.
This week, jailed former Prime Minister Nawaz Shariff whom Imran ousted in the polls was quizzed by a five-member investigation team over a 2014 graft allegation.
Former president Asif Ali Zardari and his son, Pakistan People’s Party chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari, were also grilled by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) which investigates corruption.
On Islamophobia, Imran said the recent terror attack on two mosques in Christchurch by a sole gunman had caused all fingers to be pointed at Islam.
(Islamophobia is the fear, hatred of, or prejudice against the Islamic religion or Muslims generally.)
Nine of the 50 who died were Pakistan nationals, with Malaysians accounting for three.
Dr Mahathir, who arrived here on Thursday night, described his discussions with Imran as substantial, covering significant issues affecting both countries and the larger Muslim world.
He said like the new Pakistan regime, Malaysia remained very concerned about corruption.
“As PM Imran said, no nation is poor. We are brought to that state because of corruption.
“This is why we came back to power with a promise to combat the corruption that was rampant under the previous government,” he said of Pakatan Harapan’s victory in the general election last May.
Expressing sadness that not a single Muslim-majority country was truly developed, Dr Mahathir said Malaysia’s aim to become a developed country by 2020 had to be pushed back till 2025 due to corruption.
On increasing violence based on Islamophobia, Dr Mahathir offered his take: “I have noticed that there is a fear and enmity towards us as Muslims. The recent terror attack in New Zealand happened because of the feeling of hatred towards Muslims.
“We must work to improve the perception of Muslims in the world. “We must change the prevailing atmosphere of fear; we must also realise that fighting back does not always mean killing each other.”
Dr Mahathir was earlier accorded an official welcome at the house grounds, where he planted the Pinus Roxburghii, a longleaf pine native to the Himalayas, to symbolise the growing relations between both countries.
Later in the evening at the Aiwan-e-Sadr Presidential Palace, Dr Mahathir was conferred the Nishan-e-Pakistan (Order of Pakistan), the republic’s highest civilian award, by President Arif Alvi.
The award is deemed as highly restricted and most prestigious in Pakistan, as it is conferred strictly on merit and distinguished services to the country, international community and foreign relations.
The award was conferred on Dr Mahathir specifically for his contributions to the United Nations, Organisation of Islamic Cooperation and Asean.
This morning, Dr Mahathir will attend the Pakistan Day 2019 parade at Shakar Parian here as guest of honour.