KARACHI: Senior members of the civil society on Saturday painted a harrowing picture of Pakistan’s economic situation, asking the authorities to take immediate measures to save the country from an impending disaster.

They held a press conference from the platform of the Concerned Citizens Alliance at the PMA House.

Speaking on the occasion, former Federal Board of Revenue chairman Shabbar Zaidi said Pakistan’s economy has arguably never experienced a situation like the one it’s faced with these days. “Today the position of the foreign currency account is extremely worrisome. The situation of both the dollar and the rupee is so dismal that in the time to come the inflation rate will increase exponentially.”

Focusing on the condition of the common man, Mr Zaidi said the ban imposed on imported items will result in having to shrink the economy instead of expanding it, and it won’t be a conspiracy but a compulsion. “When your population is burgeoning rapidly and you have to shrink your economy, it can be well imagined what the economic condition of the country will be… The problem is that we can’t see ‘seriousness’ in the socio-political environment of the country with reference to the financial crisis. It is not up to a single institution or a single party to rectify the situation, we need to develop national consensus on it.”

Calls for immediate steps to save country from impending disaster

He added the manner in which political temperature is running high in the country will only aggravate the situation.

Prof Tipu Sultan said he had read about economic, moral and social ‘meltdown’ but for the first time in his life he’s experiencing it. “We have always talked about basic fundamental rights of the people. But the situation in recent times has taken such a strange turn that all the pillars of the country have betrayed us strongly. We’ve reached near collapse, it is a scary scenario. The common man is in trouble.

“When we look at what’s happening in Sri Lanka, we get [further] disturbed about our country. The biggest issue is that there appears to be no solution in sight. All our powerful institutions are staring at each other, looking after their vested interests. We as common citizens are deeply troubled thinking about the [lack of] solution,” he said.

Former Citizen-Police Liaison Committee chief Nazim Haji said that the country in its history had never faced a situation like this. He argued knee-jerk reactions such as putting a ban on imported items don’t lead to solutions.

Referencing the dollar and rupee crisis and the petrol issue, he suggested the government on its own can take some steps to improve the environment.

“The government has 130,000 vehicles and every car gets a fixed petrol quota. My suggestion would be to monetise it, cap it. Don’t give them excess litres [of petrol]… If you are sincere about resolving issues, the leadership should put curbs on itself. You can’t ask the public to tighten their belt and you don’t do it yourself.”

Commonwealth Karachi’s Syed Khawar Mehdi spoke about moral degradation and claimed we’ve never undergone such a meltdown.

He also touched upon the toxic polarisation that exists in society which leads to intolerance of one another. He also mentioned that now the security establishment has realised that economic depth is more important.

Karamat Ali and Nargis Rehman were also on the list of speakers.

Earlier, Dr Mirza Ali Azhar introducing the guests to the media said the members of the Concerned Citizens Alliance, of which he is the coordinator, have nothing to do with politics.

Published in Dawn, May 22nd, 2022

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