The opposition Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) and the PPP on Friday staged separate anti-government demonstrations in different cities across the country to protest against inflation.
On Wednesday, the PDM had kicked off its 15-day nationwide protest from Rawalpindi against the continuous rise in the prices of petroleum products and edibles. In the first step, the PDM will stage protests in big cities of the country and afterwards, it will take a decision about holding public meetings or a long march.
Addressing a protest gathering at Karachi's Empress Market, Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) general secretary Maulana Abdul Ghafoor Haideri said that protests against inflation and the current government were a "public referendum".
The JUI-F stood in solidarity with the poor, farmers and lawyers, he said, adding that party chief Maulana Fazlur Rahman — who is also the PDM president — had announced nationwide protests from October 20. "Protests against inflation will continue," he vowed.
He alleged that the entire country had been left at the mercy of the International Monetary Fund (IMF). "Prime Minister Imran Khan used to say he would commit suicide before going to the IMF. He had promised 10 million jobs [but] 16,000 people were let go in Islamabad."
He added that people were being evicted from their homes in Karachi in the name of encroachment.
While speaking at another protest in Lahore, PML-N's Saad Rafique said the people of the country were facing "back-breaking" inflation, unemployment, and lawlessness while also witnessing the degradation of state institutions.
"Why are people dying of hunger? Why are they committing suicide? Why are they cursing the government? This did not happen overnight," he said, adding that this was the result of targeting "elected representatives".
He said that essentials had not just become expensive, they were "very expensive". The PML-N leader also predicted another wave of inflation in the country in the aftermath of recent talks with the International Monetary Fund.
He alleged that the premier did not fulfil promises made to the people and lied to them. "You dupe them and make empty promises. You are not capable of anything, and you have destroyed [the country]."
Videos shared by the PML-N's Twitter account on Friday also showed similar protests in Shangla, Bahawalpur, and Kasur.
PPP protest in Karachi
Meanwhile, the PPP staged a protest in Karachi's Malir district against what city Administrator Murtaza Wahab called "increasing inflation perpetrated due to the incompetence of the PTI government".
Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah also participated in the protest. Addressing the rally, Shah said that party workers had come together to "show a mirror" to the PTI government.
He also lambasted the "selected" government for burdening the country's citizens. He said that on the instructions of party chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari, protests against inflation were being staged in different cities.
He said the PPP would come into power in the Centre and ease the burden of inflation on the people, adding that the protests were the voice of the poor, the labourers and the nation.
"I remember when Prime Minister Imran used to say when the dollar goes up in price, it is indicative that the rulers are thieves. Now tell me who the real thief is?" he questioned.
He said that PM Imran had spent his entire life abroad and didn't have first-hand knowledge of poverty in Pakistan. "His vision for framing policies is very limited. If he continues to stay in power, it will destroy the country. Therefore, he should be ousted."
'Opposition staging protests because they are jobless'
Reacting to the opposition protests over inflation, Minister of State for Information Farrukh Habib said the former had been staging demonstrations because they were "jobless".
"They are a group of politically jobless people," he remarked while speaking to the media in Lahore.
The minister also outlined measures taken by the PTI government to counter the rise in the prices of various commodities.
Admitting that there had been a significant increase in the price of ghee, he said government representatives were working with mills associations and taking steps to reduce taxes to bring down the price of one kilogramme of ghee by Rs40 to Rs50.
"[And] this is the only government that has given a record subsidy of Rs34 billion from January 2020 till September 2021 on [items sold at] utility stores," the minister said.
Berating the opposition for criticising the government over inflation and its economic policies, Habib questioned, "Did [the opposition] leave behind rivers of milk and honey?"
The minister claimed that previous governments had failed to focus on the agriculture sector during the last 30 years.
He added that now that Prime Minister Imran was focusing on agriculture, an increase could be seen in the yield of multiple crops, including sugarcane, rice and cotton. "We also gave subsidies on urea and it is available at a lesser price here when compared with the rest of the world."
The minister said the government had particularly worked on improving the agriculture sector and increasing exports. "Our [economic] growth is sustainable. We do not claim that the economy is growing after taking loans," he argued.
He added that the rise in inflation in Pakistan was a consequence of the increase in the prices of commodities globally. "But PM Imran is introducing a food support programme to give relief to the people in this difficult time," the minister said.