Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif on Sunday reiterated that the country was facing substantial financial challenges, with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) “combing every book” during the ongoing negotiations over the ninth review of the $7 billion loan programme.
The IMF delegation, headed by Nathan Porter, and the government began the make-or-break discussions last week. Pakistan needs to complete the review to stave off default.
Subsequently, the government had increased liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) price by 30 per cent and finalised a minimum of Rs6 per unit average increase in electricity rates between now and August.
Over the weekend, the premier said the IMF delegation was giving a “very tough time” to Finance Minister Ishaq Dar and his team.
Addressing the Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) Assembly on the occasion of Kashmir Solidarity Day in Muzaffarabad today, PM Shehbaz again said that the Fund was scrutinising the records of various ministries and reviewing “everything” and “every subsidy”.
“The IMF is looking critically at every book, be it petroleum, finance, commerce or the power sector,” the premier said. “They are looking at each and everything. Every subsidy.”
The prime minister shed light on how the country has been on a “begging spree”, calling for it to be stopped once and for all.
“We have to stay alive but only how alive nations live and not by begging,” he said. “This has been going on for 75 years. We have to put a stop to this.”
The premier vowed to break “this habit of begging” that country was embroiled in.
“This will stop when the entire nation [stands] united to fight inflation and vows to produce their own resources,” he said. “It was very easy to say so but doing it was harder. We deliver speeches but after an hour I forget what I had said.”
Talking about revitalising the Kashmir cause, PM Shehbaz stressed forging unity and solidarity by shunning all political differences.
“The founder of Pakistan Quaid-i-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah had declared Kashmir the jugular vein of Pakistan,” he said.
The prime minister regretted that the divisions in society were apparent but the unity of political parties, their leadership, and assembly members in Muzaffarabad certainly perturbed India.
“When a society moves with unity, its goals are achieved, giving it further power and strength,” he said, adding that the entire 220 million Pakistani nation and the Kashmiris gave a clear message of national unity today.
In Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IIOJK), for the last 75 years, the premier said, the blood of innocent Kashmiris was spilled mercilessly.
He also recalled that in 2019, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi had deprived the IIOJK of its special status, turning the whole occupied valley into an open jail.
PM Shehbaz concluded that the government and people of Pakistan will continue to extend diplomatic, political, and moral support to the Kashmiris brothers and sisters till they attain their cherished goal of freedom from India’s unlawful and forcible occupation.
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