ISLAMABAD: Federal Minister for Information and Broadcasting Chaudhry Fawad Hussain has said that Prime Minister Imran Khan is the most popular leader in Pakistan as the people, who voted him to power, are still his ardent fans. Speaking in a BBC’s ‘Hard Talk’ programme, he said that even in the next general elections, Imran Khan would get the majority votes and be the prime minister for another tenure. To a question, he cautioned the host not to undermine the elected government as Imran Khan received millions of votes in the last general elections. Fawad Chaudhry said that Imran Khan and the cabinet take collective decisions. He said that the government had due respect for the opinion of ‘institutions’ but the decisions rested with the prime minister. At present, the country’s growth rate was 3.94 %, despite COVID-19 crisis, he said while sharing achievements. He also said that about Rs1,100 billion had shifted from the urban economy to the rural economy. This year, he said that Pakistan has got four bumper crops, and a record number of tractors had been purchased by farmers. He said that Pakistan’s response to COVID-19 had been one of the best in the world. “Pakistan has been a good example for the world with its pandemic related policies; Pakistan has done better than any other country,” he quoted remarks of the UN General Assembly president. He said that these words speak volumes of successful strategy to deal with the COVID-19 situation. In response to another question, the minister said that 5.5 million people had been vaccinated in the country. He said that Pakistan was among the top 34 countries in terms of vaccinating the people. “The way we are going, we will achieve the targets of vaccination soon,” he said. FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION He reiterated that Pakistan was a great success story as far as dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic was concerned. “The partial lockdown strategy worked well, in Pakistan, the situation is far better than any other country in the region.” To a question, he said that the media in Pakistan was enjoying immense freedom. He said that freedom of expression was a fundamental and democratic right guaranteed by the constitution. “Pakistan is one of the freest states as far as media is concerned,” he said, adding that there were about 43 foreign and 112 local channels; 258 FM radio channels; and 1,569 print publications. “How could the state be accused of intimidating the media in presence of such kind of huge mass media?” As regards stopping a local channel from airing a BBC programme, Fawad said that BBC was the most-watched international channel in Pakistan and the government had never obstructed its transmission. He said that the BBC Urdu would be allowed to telecast its programmes subject to following the local laws. Responding to a question in regard to an attack on journalist Asad Toor, the minister said that he immediately took cognizance of the matter. He said that a senior police officer was investigating it and those responsible for the act would be apprehended. He said that there was no justification in accusing any institution of attacks without any cogent evidence. He said that such individual incidents did happen everywhere in the world, Pakistan was no exception. To another query, he said that Pakistan had been fighting scourge of terrorism as a front line state. A number of people lost their lives in the war on terror, he said. “This is not something limited to journalists, former prime minister Benazir Bhutto was also martyred in a terrorist attack,” he said. About 70,000 people had been killed in the war against terrorism, he said. However, the incidents of attacking journalists had reduced after the present government assumed responsibilities under the leadership of Prime Minister Imran Khan, he said.