ISLAMABAD: Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari on Monday severely criticised the performance of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) government, warning it that his party would not allow it to make a secret deal with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for a bailout package.

Addressing a press conference here, he expressed serious concern over the state of the national economy and said rising inflation and price hike in the country had made the life of poor people miserable. He urged the government to provide some relief to the poor and go hard on the rich.

“The government’s performance on the economic front was disastrous for the ordinary citizen and it was favouring the rich,” he said. Criticising the PTI government for taking foreign loans, he said no government in the country’s history had taken such heavy loans in a short span of time.

He expressed surprise over what he called celebrations by the government after securing loans, saying “what is to celebrate when the poor and the common man will have to bear the burden of paying off these loans”.

Says govt should not use services of ISPR for political statements

“If you want to create fiscal space and need to burden someone for it, you should burden the rich people, like Jahangir Tareen. But you have amnesty scheme for the rich and inflation for the poor,” he said.

The PPP chairman warned that the government would have to face a strong reaction from the poor because of its wrong economic policies. He said the people of the country were facing a sharp increase in the prices of essential items at a time when Ramazan is approaching. “Where is a Ramazan package of the government?” he asked and demanded that the government provide some relief to people.

He advised the PTI government to take inspiration from the economic management of the PPP government during turbulent times. He claimed that at a time when there was a global recession, terrorism was at its peak, there was an environment of war and the country faced two devastating floods, the PPP government had succeeded in generating 6.8 million jobs and giving 150 per cent raise in the salary of government employees. It had also announced a package for growers. The PPP government did everything it could do for the poor, he added.

Mr Bhutto-Zardari urged the PTI government to fulfil its promise of generating 10 million jobs in the country.

He accused the government of trying to hide the conditions of the IMF for the bailout package. The deal with the IMF must be approved by parliament, otherwise it would be considered illegal.

He criticised Adviser to the Prime Minister on Finance, Revenue and Economic Affairs Abdul Hafeez Shaikh for not addressing parliament. “He has not even shared his vision of the economy with anybody or media in the country,” he said.

Answering a question, the PPP chairperson said the government should not use the services of the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) for political statements.

When he was asked to comment on a statement of ISPR Director General Maj Gen Asif Ghafoor earlier in the day that a political party was supporting the Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement (PTM), he said that by using national institutions for political purposes the prime minister would make them controversial.

Mr Bhutto-Zardari said he supported only the PPP. “But we believe that there is a need to engage the youth of tribal areas. They have seen too much violence and sufferings. The good thing is that the tendency of violence or the narrative of an eye for an eye has not taken root among the young generation,” he added.

He said: “I do not support PTM, but I ask the government to engage its people.”

The PPP chairperson also criticise the National Accountability Bureau (NAB), saying that it was being used for political victimisation.

Quoting a statement of his father, former president Asif Ali Zardari, earlier in the day, he said NAB and economic growth in the country could not go together.

Citing a reference used by former prime minister Mohammad Khan Junejo that the martial law and democracy could not go together, he said NAB’s black law and democracy could not be run simultaneously.

Mr Butto-Zardari said the PPP would not compromise on the 18th Amendment. “You can send my entire party to jail but we will not change our principled stance on the 18th Amendment, presidential form of government, military courts, freedom of the press and democracy.”

Published in Dawn, April 30th, 2019