ISLAMABAD: The government and the opposition traded barbs in the National Assembly on Monday as Leader of the Opposition Shehbaz Sharif slammed Prime Minister Imran Khan over his repeated claims of modelling Pakistan on the pattern of State of Madina.

Speaking in the National Assembly, Mr Sharif said there was social and economic justice available to all in the State of Madina unlike what is happening in Pakistan right now.

He condemned the prime minister for backbreaking inflation, unprecedented joblessness and ever-increasing poverty where majority of people were now finding it difficult to make both ends meet.

Mr Sharif accused the incumbent government of pushing the country to the brink of destruction and warned that the tsunami of price hike would soon sweep the government away.

Barbs fly in National Assembly session

He said Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), who headed the State of Madina, used to protect the oppressed and orphans.

Criticising the government over its budget for the current fiscal year, he said that on June 17 this year, just days after the budget had been presented, he had warned during the NA session that multiple mini-budgets would soon be unveiled by those who were boasting about presenting the tax-free budget.

Recalling the mayhem in the house during the general debate on the federal budget 2021-22, when lawmakers from the treasury and opposition benches had nearly came to blows and hurled objects at each other, Mr Sharif said nobody would have imagined of such a scenario in Riyasat-i-Madina, where everyone had the right to speak their mind.

“Today, everyone is a witness that this is the worst government the country has over had over the last 74 years,” he said.

He referred to the recent massive increase in prices of petrol, diesel and electricity which led to hike in prices of all food items like atta, ghee, pulses, etc.

“And what will be more cruel than hundreds of thousands of people facing unemployment?” Mr Sharif asked rhetorically, adding that all basic commodities were now out of the reach of an average family.

The opposition leader went on to say that while the government had been making efforts to meet the International Monetary Fund’s conditions, it was still unable to convince the Fund and only adding to difficulties of the people.

“This government has pushed the country to the brink of destruction and disaster.”

Mr Sharif recalled that in the past Imran Khan had been heard saying in his speeches on television and atop containers that an increase in prices of electricity and gas and the rupee devaluation against the dollar were indications that the prime minister and others in the government were corrupt and thieves.

“Now, if the prices of medicines rise by 500 per cent, tell me what would you call this government?” he asked. “And if the value of the dollar increases by 40pc against the rupee, what do you have to say about this government?”

Continuing his tirade against the government, Mr Sharif said that inflation in the country had been leading the poor people to commit suicides because they were unable to fight the poverty as unemployment is also rampant across the country.

He said that for most part in the country’s history, except a few rare cases, agricultural crops had been available aplenty so much so that a part of the yield used to be exported, but now tenders were being floated to import tonnes of sugar.

He said the government had deprived the poor, orphans and widows of free medicines and other medical facilities, including free testing. What will you call such a government?” he again asked.

Mr Sharif recalled that President Arif Alvi had recently said the economy was on the right path. “Didn’t he see how people have been forced to beg here because of inflation?” he asked.

He said that billions and trillions of rupees had been looted from the people in sugar and wheat scandals and the country’s foreign exchange reserves, which were supposed to be used for important purposes and the nation’s progress, had been squandered.

The opposition leader warned that “if this storm of inflation is not stopped, nothing would be left here”.

Specifically speaking about the controversy over the procurement of liquefied natural gas by the incumbent government, he said it had failed to take advantage of the “dirty cheap spot rates” and later purchased the commodity at higher prices.

“Such measures have caused destruction in the country at a scale that you and I had not thought of,” he said.

“This government will be washed away by the tsunami of the people who are tired of the rising unemployment and inflation,” he said.

After Shehbaz Sharif’s address, Communica­tions Minister Murad Saeed tried to give a response and defend the government. He said the opposition leader had referred to Riyasat-i-Madina multiple times in his speech.

“Today, we should be thankful for having a prime minister who aims to transform this country into Riyasat-i-Madina,” Mr Saeed said.

On the other hand, the minister said, when the opposition leader’s party was in power and their leaders would visit the US, they would be asked about the difference between them (opposition leaders) and the PTI, their reply would be that they were more liberal, whereas Mr Khan was more inclined towards religion.

He said the prime minister would continue to pose as being more religious minded.

Mr Saeed’s speech was interrupted by the opposition lawmakers who started shouting slogans against the government.

Soon after that, most opposition lawmakers walked out of the assembly hall and the quorum was pointed out by Khurram Dastgir Khan of the PML-N.

Because of lack of quorum, the proceedings of the house had to be adjourned till Wednesday.

Published in Dawn, October 19th, 2021

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