PPP Chairperson Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari on Wednesday criticised the government over the recent appointments of economic adviser, State Bank of Pakistan's (SBP) governor and Federal Board of Revenue's chairperson, questioning if the decisions were made on the dictation of the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
Speaking to reporters outside the National Assembly, Bilawal said that the government had offered no explanation for the sudden changes. The PPP chairperson said that Prime Minister Imran Khan had appointed Hafeez Shaikh — who was finance minister from 2010-13 when PPP was in government — as the economic adviser "without even meeting him" and claimed that no one, including the premier, knew the reasons behind the change.
He specifically raised questions over the appointment of Dr Reza Baqir — an IMF economist — as SBP governor and asked: "How can IMF negotiate with IMF?"
"All of a sudden [after Shaikh's appointment], SBP and FBR heads are shown the door. The person appointed as SBP governor was previously receiving his salary from the IMF [...] no matter how good or bad [Baqir] is, there will be suspicion as to whether IMF is taking these decisions."
Bilawal admitted that PPP too had sought a deal from the IMF but insisted that his party had "never compromised on Pakistan's financial rights". He said that the PPP had started a "revolutionary programme" — the Benazir Income Support Programme — that created jobs, and raised salaries and pensions of government employees.
He criticised the government for "usurping the rights of labour unions" and warned that if the government fails to improve the economic situation of the country, opposition will be forced to protest inside and outside the parliament. He added that political instability in the country had led to economic instability.
PML-N decision 'not final'
In response to a question regarding PML-N's decision to change the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) chairperson, Bilawal said that the PPP had not been taken into confidence.
"They [PML-N] might not have had a chance," he said. "But yesterday one of their members said in the assembly that the decision was not final."
In a shocking move, the PML-N had last week announced that Shahbaz Sharif, who is Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly, had stepped down as PAC chairperson and the party had nominated Rana Tanvir in his stead. Though the PML-N insisted that PPP had been taken into confidence, the latter said that the decision was "one-sided".
"We are surprised at the decision," PPP's Shazia Marri had said. "Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari was present in the parliament. He was not informed and neither were the PAC members."
The announcement had attracted criticism from the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf as well, that recalled that Sharif had been appointed as PAC chairperson after a five-month deadlock as the ruling party was reluctant to give chairmanship of this vital parliamentary committee to the opposition leader contrary to the traditional practice. The PML-N had refused to nominate another member from the party to head the PAC, arguing that according to parliamentary tradition, the leader of the opposition should become chairman of this committee.
In his conversation with reporters today, Bilawal said that it had been decided in the Charter of Democracy that the opposition leader would be PAC chairperson so that the accountability process would be transparent and insisted that the practice should be upheld.