ISLAMABAD: PML-N leader Khawaja Asif said Monday government officials with a history of working with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) were “mercenaries” and asked why they were in top positions.
He was referring to Adviser to the Prime Minister on Finance Hafeez Shaikh and State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) Governor Dr Reza Baqir who were at the IMF before joining PTI’s economic team.
Addressing a session of the National Assembly earlier today, Asif said Budget 2020-21 was a temporary one. “There will be a mini-budget and more taxes will be imposed,” he said.
“These are mercenaries; why are they brought [to power]?”
The PML-N leader, taking note of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, said he honoured the healthcare professionals — including doctors, nurses, and paramedical staff — for not only putting their own lives on stake but also potentially risking their families as well. “This government’s policies are against them,” he added.
The former foreign minister said the incumbent PTI-led government was drawing back economically; “in fact, it has acknowledged defeat without saying it publicly,” he said.
PML-N vs PTI
Comparing the current government’s performance with that of the prior one led by the PML-N, he said growth in gross domestic product (GDP), agriculture, large-scale manufacturing, industrial, and service sectors were 5.5%, 4%, 5%, 4.9%, and 6.2%, respectively; the same under Prime Minister Imran Khan’s “Naya Pakistan”, however, were -0.4%, 2.7%, -0.78%, -2.6%, and -0.6%, respectively, he noted.
Similarly, tax collection, inflation, gross public debt, debt-to-GDP ratio, and exports were Rs3,842 billion, 3.9%, Rs24,953 billion, 72.1%, Rs24.8 billion, respectively, during Nawaz’s era and Rs3,844 billion, 11.2%, Rs35,207 billion, 85.0%, Rs19.7 billion, respectively, during Khan’s tenure.
The fiscal deficit-to-GDP ratio, public sector development programme (PSDP), the government’s running expenditures, and unemployment were -6.6%, Rs750 billion, Rs402 billion, and 5.8%, respectively, during the PML-N’s tenure, whereas the same under PM Imran’s administration were -9.2%, Rs623 billion, Rs475 billion, and 8.5%, respectively.
“The figures explain everything,” Asif said. “Unemployment is rising and millions of people are becoming jobless,” Asif said. “Imran Khan was brought with great desire and pampering.”
On government’s running expenditures, he said Planning Minister Asad Umar had claimed umpteen times that it would be reduced. The PSDP is a stimulus for economic activity, he noted, but millions of people were becoming unemployed.
“There were a lot of claims previously, even today, while presenting the budget, they were claiming that the budget was transparent and corruption-free one,” the PML-N leader said.
Asif said the PTI chief had earlier vowed against obtaining debts from the IMF and other international organisations. The incumbent ruling party had previously claimed that the amnesty scheme was for thieves but they have used it for their own benefit, he added.
“They had promised to punish the Sahiwal [incident’s] culprits but they freed them all later after giving them cheques at the chief minister’s house,” he said.
The former foreign minister said the government should have benefited from the falling interest rate but Pakistan “incurred a loss of about Rs1.5-1.7 trillion on interest rate”.
Put Shaikh, Baqir ‘on the ECL’
“We kept asking the State Bank of Pakistan Governor [Dr Reza Baqir] and the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) about the hot money which exited after earning with a 13.5% policy rate,” he said.
“The undertakers of Pakistan’s current economy, Dr Hafeez Shaikh and SBP Governor should be put on the ECL [exit control list],” he warned, saying both should be given targets and sign performance bonds.
“Don’t make a mess out of the country’s economy. The ordeal of corruption goes on unabated,” he added.
Asif also called for aiding the public servants during the pandemic. “You should have compensated the government employees during these hard times of crisis. They work hard day and night,” he said.
Asif said while the list of corruption and accountability claims against the PPP and PML-N was quite long, “no attention is given to foreign funding and BRT case.”
‘Liability for their voters and sponsors’
“There will be a time when the incumbent government will become a liability for their voters and sponsors. Stop blaming the coronavirus for all your mishaps; the situation had slipped out of hands even before that.
“They have taken stay order against foreign funding. They used to blame Ayaz Sadiq and Khawaja Saad Rafique in the past and now they have taken the stay order to hide their discrepancies,” he added.
Referring to the Billion Tree Tsunami project, the PML-N leader asked about its progress to which the speaker offered him to pay a visit with him.
“Nations are ruined when the love of power overcomes the basic instincts of humanity,” he noted, adding that the current government was raking in money from helpless people even in these tough times of the coronavirus.
“There will be 1.2 million patients of coronavirus by July, according to international surveys. The Imperial College London’s research study has given a date and projections that 80,000 people will die in a day due to the coronavirus
“[PM] Imran Khan kept negating the severity of the virus, termed it a flu in the past days when strict measures were required to contain the disease,” Asif said.
Lockdown ‘an ineffective policy’: Asad Umar
After Asif concluded his part, Umar, the planning minister, retorted, saying: “Nawaz Sharif used to call fascist [Indian Prime Minister] Narendra Modi for visits to Pakistan.
Giving the example of India, the minister said the country had 653 coronavirus cases as of March 25 and then, in June, they said that could not control the situation despite a lockdown and more than 100,000 infections were reported.
More than 5,500 people had lost their lives due to coronavirus during the strict lockdown, he noted.
“The lockdown is an ineffective policy and a menace for developing nations like Pakistan,” he stressed, adding that an Indian minister had said Modi inflicted unprecedented damage on the economy by pushing millions below the poverty line.
Responding to Asif, he said the PML-N leader had in the past alleged that Shaukat Khanum Memorial Cancer Hospital & Research Centre is a fraud and “it generated the most funds that year, people donated the most that year”.
“They are projecting that the PTI’s popularity has ended now but the picture is completely opposite. Foreign investments and reserves have increased but Khawaja Asif did not talk about that.
Umar refutes Imperial College forecast
“The exports have increased during our tenure. A 2.8% increase in the agricultural sector [was recorded] before COVID-19 hit the country,” Umar said.
Asif, he added, misquoted the figures about the PSDP. He raised an important question about hot money and being the supreme power, the Parliament should know about the facts.
“PM Imran Khan responded to the Supreme Court’s question about his assets for eight months and was declared honest and truthful after the investigation,” he said.
Talking about the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) and its functioning, the minister said it was the national corruption watchdog running according to the laws framed by the PML-N while its chief was appointed by the same party as well.
“Stop blaming Imran Khan for its policies,” he said.
Responding to the PML-N leader’s suggestion to prevent Shaikh, the PM’s finance adviser, and SBP Governor Dr Baqir from leaving the country, Umar said: “I have stopped believing in the ECL now.”
He also refuted the Imperial College London’s report, saying the forecasts made by the Pakistani scientists portrayed a completely different picture.