• Says ex-PM failed to keep smooth working relationship with army chiefs, judiciary
• Sees opposition in blind alley after it attacked institutions
• Govt to move CPEC Authority bill
ISLAMABAD: Minister for Information and Broadcasting Senator Shibli Faraz on Sunday said the Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N) was responsible for current economic difficulties as the party had “looted national wealth” and “paralysed institutions” for 30 years.
Anticipating the victory of Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf in the last general elections, the then PML-N government “left behind landmines” to harm the PTI government, claimed the senator while addressing a press conference.
When the PTI came to power, foreign exchange reserves of no more than six weeks were left and the current account deficit was over $20 billion, he recalled, explaining that the previous government had left behind Rs30 trillion loans while Rs2.9tr was allocated in the budget for payment of loans.
Mr Faraz said that former finance minister Ishaq Dar had kept the dollar artificially low by spending $23bn and then he went out of the country in the plane of the then prime minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi. The previous government also did not increase exports in the last five years rather it damaged industries, he added.
When the government led by the PTI came, its first challenge was to return the loans and pay heavily for the import of palm oil, crude oil and pulses, the minister recalled, adding that the PTI government increased the foreign exchange reserves to $19bn and reduced current account deficit from $20bn to $80 million.
Exports and remittances also increased as people trusted the honest and sincere leadership of Imran Khan and the government met the revenue collection target of Rs1tr, he added.
Petrol, power, drug prices
About hike in power tariff, he said the PML-N government had signed expensive power agreements and its focus was not on renewal energy projects and transmission and power distribution but on expensive fuels like oil and LNG. Due to the previous expensive agreements, the PTI government had to make capacity payments and address circular debt, he added. The PTI government was bound by the power agreements of the previous governments, which harmed the interests of electricity consumers, he said, recalling that the government held negotiations with power companies to find a solution for capacity payments. The previous government also bought re-gasified LNG at a high rate, he said. “A patriotic Pakistani could not sign such agreements,” he remarked.
Responding to a question about price hike, the minister said prices of different commodities had fluctuated due to “seasonal” factors. He said the PTI government was taking steps to bring down the prices.
However, about the life-saving drugs, he said their prices were “rationalised” to maintain their standard and ensure availability in the market.
Justifying increase in petrol prices, the minister said the main reason for hike in petrol prices was international prices, which were not in government’s control. He said the PM in his speech to the United Nations asked the rich countries to give back the wealth looted from the poor countries.
Ban on TV appearance
“The courtiers of the Sharifs were telling lies with confidence and they should not come on TV as they were giving a narrative that had no link to reality,” the information minister asserted. Those who claim to protect national interest had only looted the country and done nothing for the public, he explained.
The minister said the PTI government reduced budget deficit, curtailed expenditure and took steps to increase revenue. He said the government improved the economic situation despite the challenge of coronavirus and fared better than other countries whose economies also suffered. He said Prime Minister Imran Khan recently held an important meeting to boost oil and gas exploration, whereas the previous government had ignored the sector allegedly for the sake of commissions.
Referring to the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, Mr Faraz said CPEC was a reflection of the unwavering friendship between Pakistan and China. He said the government was committed to complete the CPEC projects and urged the opposition not to “harm” projects of national importance with its statements. An ordinance related to CPEC Authority had lapsed and the government would present a bill in the parliament, he disclosed, expressing the hope that the opposition would support the bill.
He explained that the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) went after the opposition parties, which took personal benefit by relaxing rules and regulations and used every opportunity to commit corruption when they were in power. References had been filed against the opposition only because of its involvement in corruption, he alleged.
The minister said the opposition was using people to come back into power. But the opposition was divided, he added. He also made it clear that if all opposition members resigned from the assemblies, their resignations would be accepted and by-elections would be held.
The opposition parties initially attempted to oppose the Financial Action Task Force-related legislation in the assembly, but then formed an anti-government alliance to create instability in the country until they were given NRO-like relief, he said. However, he said, the opposition would not get the relief as the PTI had come in power on the mandate to go after the corrupt.
He said the opposition was in blind alley after it attacked the institutions. He asked Nawaz Sharif to tell how he had made his assets and how he took away the money abroad. People knew that Imran-led government was honest and sincere, and that the prime minister was working day and night, he said, adding that the economy had been stabilised and business activity was increasing.
Nawaz’s relationship with army chiefs, judiciary
He said Prime Minister Imran Khan effectively raised the issue of Kashmir, whereas Nawaz Sharif did not disclose about Indian spy Kulbhushan Jadhav. The former premier was “blackmailing Pakistan and its institutions”, he reiterated, explaining that he did not have “smooth working relationship with the army chiefs and judiciary”.
Besides, he added, he was also accused of theft and financial crimes. He noted that Nawaz Sharif had “dictatorial” tendencies due to which his party was disunited. He would have to submit before the law and face the cases against him, he added. He said the government was trying to implement the recent court decision regarding Nawaz Sharif and delivered the arrest warrants to him through Pakistan High Commission in the United Kingdom. Nawaz was convicted yet he went to London on bail, he remarked.
About political activity of the opposition, the minister said it was responsibility of the government to maintain law and order. He said those involved in corruption should be behind bars.
Published in Dawn, October 5th, 2020