Time to take difficult economic decisions: FM Bilawal

Published May 15, 2022
Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto addresses  a public rally in Karachi. – DawnNewsTV
Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto addresses a public rally in Karachi. – DawnNewsTV

Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari on Sunday said the time had come to take "difficult decisions" for Pakistan's benefit to rescue it from the current economic crisis.

"Now the time has come to take those difficult decisions in the country's favour so we can take it out of an economic crisis," the foreign minister said while addressing a rally in Karachi. Bilawal was seemingly referring to the decision to hike petrol prices, which is being delayed by the government.

FM Bilawal said the government had two options in front of it: to maintain short-term relief and thrust the people into long-term problems, or "we bear short-term pain and arrange long-term relief."

"We have to take those difficult decisions through which we can take the economy out of the crisis created by [Imran] Khan," the PPP chairman said, adding that solutions could be found by working together.

Bilawal said the nation was facing "war-like" issues and difficulties and various political opponents had come together in the "unity government" to take responsibility and resolve them.

"Did you ever think we would be part of the cabinet and run the government with Shehbaz Sharif? Did you ever imagine that we would sit with MQM and do this?" the PPP chief asked.

He explained that personal and political differences were forgotten during times of hardship in favour of "national interest". FM Bilawal added that allied political parties would pursue reforms and work hard to deliver relief to the people.

Earlier today, Finance Minister Miftah Ismail said the government was not increasing petrol prices "for now", going back on an important pre-condition set by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for the resumption of its loan programme.

Analysts and experts have criticised the new coalition government for eroding investor sentiment by not being able to come up with a credible plan to take politically tough decisions to fix the economy. One key decision on which the government has been dragging its feet is the reversal of the fiscally unsustainable fuel and energy subsidies, which is the ‘prior action’ that IMF wants it to take before it agrees to restart funding.

However, since taking charge, Prime Minister Shehbaz has rejected summaries for the removal of petrol subsidies on multiple occasions, showing that the new government is finding it difficult to take a decision that might be unpopular with its voters.

'Conspiracy was hatched in Bilawal House'

The foreign minister said the conspiracy to oust the PTI government was not hatched inside the White House, as claimed by Imran, but was prepared inside Bilawal House.

Lashing out at Imran, Bilawal rubbished the PTI chief's claim that his government was ousted through a foreign conspiracy at the behest of the United States.

"Now this selected says it was a foreign conspiracy. It's not a foreign conspiracy, it was a democratic action. It was the struggle of PPP workers, it was the success of Constitution and parliamentary democracy," FM Bilawal said.

He said it was the PPP's efforts that led to the formation of the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) – an alliance of former opposition parties.

"Forgetting our political differences, together with other parties, we formed the PDM and on September 20, 2020, when we laid the basis for PDM, we had clearly said we would do long marches and protests and that we would also struggle inside parliament and send the PTI government home through a vote of no-confidence," Bilawal recalled.

He said at first PPP's allies did not agree on an in-house change but "in politics you have to convince everyone and it is the leader's responsibility to show the way," Bilawal said.

"So we convinced others, we practically showed our allies and made them understand not to resign from parliament. When our stance was accepted, the selected government lost all by-elections, proving that their mandate was false and that they had come to the helm through selection."

'PPP ready for elections'

"The PPP is ready for elections as soon as we bring in election reforms and act on the Charter of Democracy," FM Bilawal said in today's rally.

He added that the PPP had already shown what it could do as the third biggest political party in the country and it would show in the future "what else can be done when we will be the biggest party in parliament".

Lashing out at Imran, Bilawal said the former premier's "lies and propaganda" would have to be combated. "Khan sahab wants the rule of the jungle and doesn't believe in the rule of law or democracy ... but this effort of his will be wasted and the people will win," the foreign minister said.

He added that there would be accountability for constitutional violations by the PTI chairman, adding that a parliamentary commission would be formed on the issue.

The foreign minister also condemned the events during Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif's visit to Saudi Arabia, when political slogans were chanted against members of his cabinet in the Prophet's Mosque, adding that said such "filthy politics" could not be tolerated.

Bilawal said Imran and the PTI should "ask [for] forgiveness" for the events in Madina. He also criticised the PTI chairman's recent critical remarks regarding "our institutions".

"Imran is playing a dangerous game with the country's destiny and the federation. A conspiracy is being brewed up against the constitutional system.

"But we have thwarted plans from Bani Gala before and this scheme will fail as well. We will establish a national government after implementing reforms and elections," the PPP chairman said.

He said the PPP would work hard on reforms and try to find solutions to problems, particularly on the foreign affairs level. Bilawal called on his party to start preparing for the local government elections and eventually, the general elections.

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