The top leadership of the PML-N on Monday accused the government of having ruined the country's economy through its incompetence and pro-elite policies, saying the ruling PTI had promised a new Pakistan but the people today were yearning for the "old Pakistan".
At a press conference in Islamabad, PML-N leaders took turns to criticise the government's performance in different areas as they presented a white paper titled "Destruction of National Power" on the government's two-year rule.
The criticism began with PML-N president and opposition leader Shehbaz Sharif lashing out at Prime Minister Imran Khan's government, saying it did not know the basics of governance and did not care for the people's issues.
Taking stock: First two years of PPP, PML-N and PTI in power
"When we talk about the tabdeeli sarkar (regime of change), we don't find anything to acknowledge but sadness and pain in the past two years," he said, adding that inflation caused due to the government's policies had brought the common man "to the brink of destruction".
In contrast, he claimed, the PML-N during its tenure under Nawaz Sharif's leadership carried out "historic development" and completed projects at a fast pace that resulted in prosperity.
He said the incumbent government had "ridiculed" the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and levelled allegations against the PML-N. But "not a penny's worth of corruption could be proven. Their plans backfired," Shehbaz added.
He said the PTI had failed to prove corruption in any of the projects started by Nawaz despite its "incessant propaganda".
Today, he said, sugar was being sold at above Rs100 per kilogramme and was being imported, even though previously the government had allowed its exports to benefit certain persons.
He noted that it was the "first time in the country's 72-year history" that there was a shortage of wheat even though the harvesting season had not yet ended, while a minister was wondering where the millions of tonnes of wheat collected by the government went. "Who is he asking? They should know where it went [and was] smuggled to," Shehbaz said.
He also said the government had given the public the "biggest shock" by raising petroleum prices even though international prices were very low, and it raised electricity prices to control circular debt but the prices were "touching the sky", beyond the reach of the common man.
"Enough electricity exists in the country but load-shedding is still ongoing due to this government's worst incompetence," the PML-N president alleged.
Shehbaz said the government had devalued the rupee by 40 per cent but in spite of this, no substantial rise in exports was seen. He further said it was the second time in Pakistan's history that GDP growth had gone negative, to -0.4pc.
He claimed that the borrowing done by the PTI government in its two years was equal to all the loans taken during Nawaz's three tenures.
"The NAB-Niazi nexus has scared away the whole investment community from Peshawar to Karachi with its allegations," he said.
Shehbaz also accused the government of having ended the provision of free medicines to critically ill patients in Punjab. "They (the government) are surrounded by the elite, they're present in the cabinet. Nobody can question them," he said.
He added that while nobody opposed accountability, "the whole nation is watching the witch-hunting being done in the name of accountability and pushing the opposition to the wall. People are yearning for old Pakistan."
Listing what he termed the government's "faux pas" on the foreign policy front, Shehbaz said the government had disappointed China through its comments on CPEC. Also, Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi gave remarks regarding Saudi Arabia's role to raise the issue of occupied Kashmir which were "so inappropriate they left the mind in shock", he added.
"The country is nosediving despite the unprecedented support the selected government received," the PML-N leader said. "Was that Pakistan better or this?"
He said the opposition had extended a hand of cooperation to the government but the latter had readily spurned it. "Now they need to show results. Saying 'I will not give NRO' won't feed people," Shehbaz concluded.
'Kashmir biggest foreign policy failure'
In his remarks, senior PML-N leader Khawaja Asif sought to highlight the government's alleged failures in the foreign policy domain.
He said the annexation of occupied Kashmir by India and the genocide of Muslims being carried out in India was Pakistan's "biggest foreign policy failure" in the last two years.
"They (government) have done treason with the blood of the martyrs. Kashmiris are praying for Pakistan's help. This is an abject failure," he alleged.
Asif said the government through its "contradictions" had dismayed both Malaysia and Saudi Arabia and it "gave statements against CPEC", which he termed as Pakistan's biggest foreign policy success
"They called us friend of [Indian Prime Minister Narendra] Modi during our last two years [and] they themselves became a facilitator of [Indian spy] Khulbushan Jadhav," he added.
The former foreign minister said the government could have taken its grievances to the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, but noted that the body has become "dysfunctional".
"They (OIC) don't even call a ministerial-level meeting on your request," Asif said, accusing the government of having failed to further the foreign policy in the region.
"Pakistan [today] stands alone; its friends are not ready to hold its hands due to these unreliable people and because of the foreign policy flip-flop."
'Thousands of billions of losses in energy sector'
Former prime minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, meanwhile, spoke about the government's inadequacies in the energy sector.
He said the country's circular debt stood at Rs1,026 billion at the end of the PML-N tenure in 2018 while it had now reached Rs2,200bn. It meant the PTI added nearly Rs1200bn to the debt in two years while the PML-N added Rs462bn in five years, Abbasi added.
He said the government was bent on "lying" even though Pakistan's circular debt and liabilities were increasing by Rs1.2bn on a daily basis.
Abbasi said bills collection which the PML-N government had taken to 94pc had now fallen back to 80pc while transmission losses were up from 18pc to 19pc.
Noting that gas prices had been raised by "141pc", the former premier said the country's two main gas companies had both "gone bankrupt" despite rising prices.
"This government's incompetence in the energy sector has caused losses of thousands of billions," he said, suggesting corruption in government ministries.
In his comments, former finance minister Miftah Ismail said the PTI government had added Rs12,000bn to the national debt in its two years while the PML-N had increased the debt by Rs10,000bn in its five-year tenure during which it installed power projects, LNG terminals and developed Gwadar.
He said inflation in the country had risen from 3.9pc to 12pc. "There has been rural inflation because production has fallen," he claimed, adding that the poor did not have the money to plant for the next season.
Regarding the government's claims of current account deficit (CAD) falling in the country, Ismail said the government by reducing the CAD today while increasing the budget deficit was in fact "booking future's CAD and raising debt in capital accounts".
"There are few winners in this economy and the rest of us are losers," he added.
Govt says opposition responsible for issues
Shortly after the PML-N leaders wrapped up their press conference, Information Minister Shibli Faraz and Minister for Industries and Productions Hammad Azhar held their own presser in Islamabad to respond to the claims made by the opposition.
Addressing the media, the information minister said that the PML-N's comments seemed "hollow" and lacked "substance" for the government to give a detailed response. However, it is our responsibility to address some of the things they said so that the reality can be presented to the people, he said.
"Shehbaz Sharif has spoken as though he has come from another country. The reality is that they are responsible for all the things that they mentioned."
The issues found in the country, including problems with education, health and the country's overall system, they are the ones responsible for it, he said, adding that these were the same people who were now trying to sympathise with the citizens.
"All of these issues, including inflation, don't just happen overnight. They patronised groups taking advantage of the country during their tenures and sucked the blood of the people.
"They had a one-point agenda, which was to make as much money they could. And they used every department to facilitate this [agenda]."
He added that the opposition's claims of the government working for the "elite" were laughable. "All the projects that the premier has launched are for the welfare of the poor and the middle class," he said, quoting the example of the health cards distributed in KP and the launch of the Peshawar Bus Rapid Transit project.
Commenting on the energy crisis, the minister added that the PML-N was responsible for making agreements with independent power producers and then taking commissions and kickbacks.
"They did all these things for their own benefit," he said, adding that the things said by the PML-N were not of much importance.
"We were thinking to cancel the press conference because they said nothing that would merit giving an answer."