Govt has compromised Pakistan’s economic sovereignty, claims Bilawal

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–PPP chief says people want to know who is really pulling the strings in the country

–Says govt’s ‘incompetence’ not 18th Amendment responsible for economic crisis

 

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari on Thursday lashed out at the federal government for “compromising economic sovereignty” of Pakistan by caving into the demands of the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

“This government has no plan, no mission and no vision,” Bilawal said while addressing a session of the National Assembly, adding that the government had failed to meet its tax targets.

Amid protesting noises by the treasury benches, the PPP chairman alleged that the public was “suffering due to the government’s incapability”. He repeated his warning that the opposition would not accept any deal with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) unless the government gets it approved by the House.

Bilawal’s fiery speech comes a day after he made similar comments outside the NA, instead of during the session which was attended by Prime Minister Imran Khan. The opposition members on Wednesday seemed to have gone into hibernation for nearly an hour during the rare appearance of PM Khan in the assembly.

Bilawal once again questioned the sudden appointments of Hafeez Shaikh, Reza Baqir and Shabbar Zaidi as economic adviser, State Bank of Pakistan governor and Federal Board of Revenue chairman, respectively.

“The government is not telling us why it is doing what it is doing,” he lamented and repeated his suspicion that the country’s economic decisions were being “taken by the IMF”.

“This is not the PTI government any more. This is the PTIMF government,” Bilawal declared.

His comments drew the ire of the treasury benches, at which Bilawal said: “This government beats [the public] and doesn’t even let them cry”. He went on to tell the lawmakers that a protest against inflation was held in South Punjab but instead of heeding the grievances of the protesters, the “zaalim (cruel) government” had them arrested.

Speaker Asad Qaiser, however, had the word ‘zaalim’ expunged from the record. “Mr Speaker, you should not expunge the truth,” Bilawal responded. He claimed that the government had filed a first information report against a PPP member in South Waziristan and had withdrawn the security of Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman.

“What kind of ‘Naya Pakistan’ is this? What kind of munafiqat [hypocrisy] is this?” he asked. When Speaker Qaiser asked that the word “munafiqat” be also expunged, Bilawal pointed out that “munafiqat” was an Urdu word, and it was not non-parliamentary. He then clarified that he meant ‘hypocrisy’.

Bilawal also responded to the protesting treasury members — despite Speaker Qaiser’s repeated instructions to address him only — and said: “Why don’t you understand that constructive criticism is in the government’s favour? Instead of censoring [criticism], lodging FIRs and sending to people to jail, [government should] watch, listen and learn.”

He said that the federal government had said that the country was bankrupt because of the 18th Amendment when in reality, the Centre was robbing money from all the provinces. He advised the government to “learn from Sindh” and said that the province had always met tax targets and generated revenue.

Bilawal accused the government of committing “economic murder” of labourers, pensioners and youth. He said that the PPP government had sought an IMF package as well but passed on its economic benefit to the public by increasing salaries, pensions and creating more than six million jobs.

PTI’s firebrand MNA Murad Saeed gave an angry response to Bilawal’s speech, saying that the current government was “exposing [PPP’s] corruption”. He added that Bilawal knew nothing and is not credible enough to talk about Pakistan’s issues.

“He just waved a chit, claiming that he has become the chairperson of the PPP,” Saeed said. He raised questions over the Sindh government’s performance and asked Bilawal to pay attention to the recent death of nine-month-old Nashwa, who had allegedly died due to medical malpractice. Saeed also drew Bilawal’s attention to the alarming increase in the number of HIV cases in Larkana.

Meanwhile, opposition members gathered around the speaker’s dice in protest. Speaker Qaiser repeatedly asked opposition leaders to return to their benches and urged PML-N’s Khawaja Asif to address the Parliament but to no avail. The sitting was then adjourned for prayers.

Earlier in the day, Bilawal, accompanied by Syed Khursheed Shah and Naveed Qamar, met Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) leaders Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, Ayaz Sadiq, Khawaja Asif, Saad Rafique and Marriyum Aurangzeb and discussed the current political situation with them.