ISLAMABAD: The country’s major opposition parties on Thursday termed resignation of Finance Minister Asad Umar an undeniable admission of the failure of the government’s economic policies by Prime Minister Imran Khan.
The main opposition Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) has even called for the resignation of the prime minister for “plunging” the country into a severe economic crisis.
The other major opposition Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) has termed Mr Umar’s resignation only a “beginning”, saying that the process would complete after resignation of the prime minister. The PPP says it will be wrong to say that Mr Umar has resigned, claiming that the finance minister has been “sacked” after his failure to negotiate a bailout package with the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly and PML-N president Shahbaz Sharif, who is currently in London, in a statement issued by the party in Islamabad, recalled that he had warned that Pakistan’s economy was being held hostage by “one man’s egocentricity, arrogance and stubbornness”.
“Imran Khan should give up his stubbornness and arrogance to focus on the country’s economy,” Mr Sharif advised while commenting on the situation.
Bilawal sees it as ‘a beginning’; PML-N calls for prime minister’s resignation
Mr Sharif reminded Imran Khan that he had offered him a collective crisis resolution formula in the form of Charter of Economy, which he couldn’t comprehend because of his ego.
“Had (Mr) Khan prioritised the country over his prestige to accept that offer, this disastrous crisis could have been avoided,” said the opposition leader, warning that “if Imran Khan continues to waste time feeding his ego and arrogance, the entire country will pay the most disastrous price”.
Similarly, talking informally to reporters at the Parliament House, PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari “felicitated” the nation over Mr Umar’s resignation and expressed the hope that the situation would improve. The PPP chairman, who had arrived in the Parliament House to preside over a meeting of the human rights committee, said perhaps the prime minister was unhappy over Mr Umar’s role in negotiations with the IMF which had been going on for the past eight months.
Mr Bhutto-Zardari said the people of Pakistan had been drowning in the “tsunami of price-hike” since the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) had assumed power in August last year. He said the government’s economic policy was “directionless” and no effort was made by the government to build consensus on economic issues.
“After eight months, the government has finally admitted the fact that its economic policies were a complete failure and that the people were not getting any relief,” the PPP chairman said.
Mr Bhutto-Zardari said that he hoped that soon the ministers who allegedly had links with the banned outfits would also be removed from their positions.
In his reaction to the development, Jamaat-i-Islami (JI) chief Senator Sirajul Haq said that from the very first day, questions were being raised on the competence of the government which had neither a vision nor a strong team to run the country.
The performance of the government till now, he said, proved that it did not know its goal. He said that with the opening batsman of the government team returning to the pavilion, the whole government team was under pressure.
Mr Haq said that neither the tax net had been widened nor the target of taxes achieved and there had been a fall of Rs230 billion in the tax collection. He said the government had not provided any relief to the people despite heavy financial assistance from friendly countries.
JI secretary general Liaqat Baloch said Imran Khan had himself introduced a concept that the team leader was responsible for the team’s failure. Therefore, he said, in principle, Imran Khan should accept the responsibility of his government’s failure.
PML-N’s spokesperson Marriyum Aurangzeb in a separate statement said the actual cause of Pakistan’s economic woes was not Asad Umar, it was Imran Khan. She pledged that those responsible for this “economic terrorism” against the country would be held accountable at all cost. She said that instead of throwing Mr Umar under the bus, Imran Khan should have manned up to take responsibility for his failure and resigned.
Ms Aurangzeb, who had served as information minister in the previous PML-N government, said this entire fiasco had exposed that the false narrative built over PML-N’s economic policies was a tool to hide the PTI’s “unbelievable incompetence”.
The former minister said that after raging havoc with the country’s economy, Mr Umar had very conveniently walked away with zero responsibility and zero accountability for the failures that had crushed the poor people of Pakistan under unbearable inflation and unsustainable monstrous loans.
Published in Dawn, April 19th, 2019