Opposition Leader in the National Assembly (NA) Shehbaz Sharif berated Prime Minister Imran Khan and his government on Monday, holding him responsible for the “backbreaking inflation” in Pakistan and pushing the country to “the brink of destruction”.
Shehbaz, who was addressing an NA session, recalled that PM Imran had made tall promises to transform Pakistan into Riyasat-i-Madinah.
“But he [Holy Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), who headed the state of Madinah] used to protect the oppressed and orphans,” he said, adding that the incumbent Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) government, on the other hand, had done little for their welfare as inflation in the country had skyrocketed.
Criticising the government over its budget for the current fiscal year, he said on June 17 this year, just days after the budget had been presented, he had warned during an NA session that multiple mini-budgets were in the offing.
“I had said on this very floor that the budget was based on fraud. They (the PTI government) had claimed that the budget was tax free. But, I had said back then that it was a pile of lies,” he added.
Also recalling the mayhem in the House during the general debate on the federal budget 2021-22, when lawmakers from the treasury and opposition benches had nearly come to blows and hurled objects at each other, Shehbaz said nobody would have imagined of such a scenario in Riyasat-i-Madinah, where everyone had the right to speak their mind.
“Today, everyone is a witness that this is the worst government in the 74 years [of Pakistan’s existence], [and] that it has made survival difficult for the nation,” he remarked.
In this connection, he gave the example of the recent rise in the prices of petrol, diesel and electricity. Moreover, he added, the prices of commodities such as ghee and cooking oil had also increased.
“And what will be more cruel than hundreds of thousands of people facing unemployment?” Shehbaz asked rhetorically, adding that basic commodities like flour, sugar and lentils were now out of the reach of an average family surviving on a monthly salary of Rs20,000.
The opposition leader went on to say that while the government had been making all-out efforts to meet the International Monetary Fund’s conditions, it was still unable to convince the Fund, only adding to the difficulties of the people of this country.
“This government has pushed Pakistan to the brink of destruction.”
Shehbaz further recalled that in the past, PM Imran had been heard saying in his speeches on television and atop containers that an increase in the prices of electricity and gas and the rupee devaluing against the dollar were indications of the prime minister and the ruling government of the time being thieves.
“Now, if the prices of medicines rise by 500 per cent, tell me what would you call this government?” he asked. “And if the value of the dollar increases by 40pc against the rupee, what do you have to say about this government?”
Continuing his tirade, Shehbaz commented that “imported inflation” in the country had been a cause of suicides and hunger.
He added that for the most part in Pakistan’s history, except in a few rare cases, agricultural crops had been available aplenty, so much so that a part of the yield was exported.
But now, the opposition leader said, tenders were being floated to import tonnes of sugar.
“This government has [also] deprived the poor, orphans and widows of free medicines and other medical facilities, pushing them towards death. What will you call this government?” he again questioned.
Shehbaz added that President Arif Alvi recently said that the economy was on the right path.
“Didn’t he see how people have been forced to beg here [because of inflation]?”
He further lamented that billions and trillions of rupees had been looted from the people of Pakistan in sugar and wheat scandals and the country’s foreign exchange reserves, which were supposed to be used for important purposes and the nation’s progress, had been squandered.
The opposition leader warned that “If this storm [of inflation] is not stopped, nothing would be left here.”
Specifically speaking about the controversy over the procurement of liquified natural gas by the incumbent government, he said it had failed to take advantage of the “dirt cheap spot rates” and later purchased the commodity at higher prices.
“Such measures have caused destruction in the country at a scale that you and I had not thought of,” he commented.
And since this government has made survival difficult for the people, it would be held accountable, he added.
“This government will be washed away by the tsunami of people who are tired of [rising] unemployment and inflation,” he said.
After Shehbaz’s address, Communications Minister Murad Saeed responded to the former’s criticism.
“The opposition leader referred to Risyasat-i-Madinah multiple times in his speech. Today, we should be thankful for having a prime minister who aims to transform this country into Riyasat-i-Madinah,” he said.
On the other hand, he added, when the opposition leader’s party was in the government and they would go on tours to the US, they were asked about the difference between them and the PTI.
And their reply would be that they were more liberal, whereas as Imran Khan was more inclined towards religion, Saeed said, adding that here in Pakistan, the former would continue to show that they, too, were inclined towards religion.
“This is their state,” he said, only to be interrupted by opposition lawmakers shouting slogans.
Soon after, most opposition lawmakers walked out of the assembly hall and the NA session had to be adjourned due to a lack of quorum, with Saeed’s speech remaining incomplete.
‘Opposition needs an excuse to protest’
Later, Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry hit out at the opposition, saying that it “just needs an excuse to stage protest”.
Addressing media persons, the minister said speeches on Seerat-un-Nabi (conduct of Holy Prophet (PBUH)) were on today’s NA agenda, but the opposition walked out and the session had to be adjourned.
“Not everything is about politics,” he remarked.
Chaudhry added that he was once again inviting the opposition to talk with the government on electoral reforms, saying that its tactics no longer worked.
Commenting on Maulana Fazlur Rehman, the president of the Pakistan Democratic Movement — an opposition alliance, Chaudhry said he had no importance and wanted to stay politically relevant through tactics like the recently held Faisalabad rally.
“My advice to him is that his politics has ended and he should now start a rent-a-crowd service for rallies,” the minister added.
On the increase in prices of commodities, he said the government had already given subsidies on ghee, wheat and electricity.
“[But] we can’t run the entire country on subsidies. When we have to repay debt worth Rs12bn, from where are we to give subsidies?” he said. “We have to combat all of these [difficulties] together,” he added.