Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif on Sunday said his government steered the country out of severe historic economic and political crises and external challenges and protected the interests of the people and the Pakistani state during the 16 months. Addressing the nation, he said time and history would be witness that his government saved Pakistan from default and the subsequent economic disaster waiting to happen, safeguarded national interests, restored the trust of friendly countries and provided relief to people after the devastating floods. He said after the end of the constitutional tenure of his government, he was handing over power to the caretaker government. “My conscience is clear that I served honestly and transparently and followed the constitution.” He congratulated Anwarul Haq Kakar for becoming the caretaker prime minister and expressed hope that he would ensure free, fair and transparent elections in Pakistan and protect the right to vote of the people. “The caretaker prime minister is appointed after consultation between him and leader of the opposition Raja Riaz.” He thanked the political leadership and people for reposing trust in his leadership and government. The prime minister said after the successful conclusion of the agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the country achieved economic stability. He said his government was compelled to take loan from the in case of a default, the country would have witnessed an economic meltdown causing immeasurable miseries for the common man and shortages of food, medicines and fuel leading to social unrest, unemployment and economic recession, he remarked. The PM said the government took difficult and tough decisions which were akin to a cancer treatment necessary for restoring the health of a patient. He felicitated the nation on the 76th Independence Day, saying freedom was achieved with the sacrifices of lives of millions of men, women and children. He recalled the tragic incidents of May 9, when military installations were burnt, government buildings were damaged and thugs desecrated the monuments of martyrs of Pakistan armed forces. “All this was done through a conspiracy, planning, target setting and by moulding minds of groups of people,” he pointed out. He held Imran Niazi and his party responsible for the mayhem on May 9 and said the nation would never forget the tragic day. “Their dark faces on that dark day were exposed before the people,” he said adding the nation was proud of its martyrs and ghazis and would forever remember their sacrifices for the motherland, which made it possible for Pakistan to defend against its enemies. Shehbaz Sharif said the people of Pakistan had sacrificed a lot and now those should give sacrifice who were wealthy and they should take care of the poor people. He said the government distributed free flour of Rs 70 billion during Ramazan, increased financial assistance to the poor people under the Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP) by 25 percent, enhanced the total allocation of BISP to Rs 466 billion, hiked salaries of employees, raised pensions and distributed Rs 100 billion among flood affectees. The government gave a package of Rs two trillion to farmers resulting in bumper crops of wheat, provided laptops to millions of youth, gave loans of Rs 80 billion for starting businesses and set up Danish schools in various parts of the country, he added. He vowed to provide more facilities for education to youth so that they could earn incomes and help end poverty and achieve economic growth in the country. He said the government’s policies would help decrease inflation to the levels achieved by former prime minister Nawaz Sharif in his last tenure. Shehbaz said the nation had built consensus on achieving economic prosperity and for that Special Investment Facilitation Council (SIFC) had been established to attract foreign and local investment of billions of rupees, leading to a revolution in the fields of agriculture, information technology, mineral extraction and defence production. The federal and provincial departments and army would ensure the implementation of projects under SIFC, he elaborated. He appealed to the people to never let return to the dark period of the last government of 2018 which caused economic difficulties for people.