Dissolving assemblies not the solution to economic crisis: Shahid Khaqan Abbasi

Published May 17, 2022
PML-N leader Shahid Khaqan Abbasi speaks outside NAB on Tuesday. —DawnNewsTV
PML-N leader Shahid Khaqan Abbasi speaks outside NAB on Tuesday. —DawnNewsTV

PML-N leader and former prime minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi on Tuesday said dissolving assemblies is "not the solution" to the prevailing economic crisis, and urged all political parties to sit together with the government and derive a solution to it.

"Dissolving the assemblies is not the solution," Abbasi told reporters outside the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) offices in Islamabad when asked about the economic crisis. "The government is working hard to get the situation under control."

The senior PML-N leader said the situation would not improve "until and unless all the parties sit at a table and talk".

His remarks come in the backdrop of a sliding rupee value, and a stock market that has experienced a slump owing to government's decision to maintain the fuel subsidy which was instituted by its predecessor. At the same time, PTI chairman Imran Khan has consistently maintained that fresh elections are the sole solution to the prevailing crisis.

"This destruction [of the economy] started four years ago when the PTI government came to power," he claimed. "Today, Imran Khan is the sole person responsible for the economic turmoil in Pakistan. You cannot expect a government to immediately fix things that he spoiled."

Referring to PTI supporters, Abbasi said that "true patriots" would think about the well-being of the country and "actively play a part in taking decisions that are for the betterment of the economy".

The decisions, the PML-N leader continued, also need the support of institutions and the people because Pakistan was everyone's responsibility. "Our country has always had unconstitutional intervention in politics. That intervention also plays a role in getting us where we are today," he added.

Abbasi's talk followed a hearing on a multi-billion-rupee case against him related to the award of a liquefied natural gas (LNG) import contract. With regard to the anti-graft body, Abbasi demanded that NAB should be "immediately dissolved" as "Pakistan will not be able to function as long as the bureau exists".

Economic uncertainty

Earlier today, the US dollar continued its flight against the rupee and breached the Rs196 mark — an all-time high — in interbank trade, mainly due to the country's depleting foreign exchange reserves and high imports.

According to the Forex Association of Pakistan (FAP), the greenback gained Rs1.50 from the previous day's close of Rs194.60 to climb to Rs196.10 around 11:20am.

This spell of the dollar's persistent rise against the rupee began on Tuesday last week, when the international currency hit a record high of Rs188.66. It then soared to Rs190.90 on Wednesday, rose past Rs192 on Thursday, reached Rs193.10 on Friday and climbed over Rs194 yesterday (Monday).

A Dawn.com report said on Monday that the when the PML-N-led coalition government took over on April 11, the dollar was valued at Rs182.3, and since then, the rupee had lost Rs11.4 or 6.2 per cent of its value.

According to currency dealers, the dollar demand never comes down, which did not allow the local currency to stay at any point.

They say the higher demand for dollars is the key reason for the bullish trend in the currency market. Political foot-dragging by the incumbent government on the reversal of fuel and electricity subsidies — a prerequisite for the resumption of the loan programme by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) — has further eroded the confidence of stakeholders.

Yesterday, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif directed policymakers to devise a comprehensive strategy in consultation with the stakeholders to halt the rupee’s free fall and improve reserves.

He also held a Zoom meeting with Exchange Companies Association of Pakistan (ECAP) chairperson Malik Bostan on Monday and expressed concern over the current situation.

During the meeting, it was suggested that entire markets across the country should be closed down before the sunset, which would save a substantial amount of energy, reduce the import oil bill and the supply to the general public could be restored.

According to a Dawn report, the PM would hold another meeting with Bostan and the SBP governor on the exchange rate today.

This will be the third meeting held by the government on the issue in four days and reflect the growing frustration in the power corridors of Islamabad, the report said.

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