ISLAMABAD - In the wake of ganging up of opposition forces and imminent movement against the government, the PML-N leadership has decided to drop the stringent tax measures in the budget to forestall and contain expected agitation against the government in coming days.
Background interviews and discussions with Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz leaders and sources in the government brought to fore that government was perturbed over the current state of affairs wherein the opposition parties have started to align against the government.
Government sources said the decision to defer increase in prices of petroleum products from June 1 by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and to provide the subsidy of Rs1.78 billion to match the deficit was also made keeping in mind the opposition parties’ push for anti-government agitation plan.
Sources in the government said that PML-N leadership was taking these measures not to provide any opening to the opposition parties to play with and launch some massive agitation campaign against the government.
A senior leader in the party, who preferred not to be named, informed The Nation that they were just completing their homework and the relief given to the masses in shape of one time capping of the petroleum products prices was not done out of any fear of agitation but purely to provide relief to the public, which is the hallmark of PML-N manifesto.
Sources in the government informed that initially there was proposal to levy taxes on commodities of daily use, particularly food items, edible oil and other such items, but when the matter was brought before the Prime Minister Sharif, he came up with outright ‘no’ to increase in the levy on the commodities which would directly burden the common man. So the proposal was put off for the time being.
Sources further said that during a meeting with Finance Minister Senator Ishaq Dar, the Premier had made it loud and clear to him that all taxation measures that could directly hit the middle and lower middle classes should be deferred and maximum relief, remaining within the financial limitations of the government, be given to them in the budget.
Sources in the government said that any stringent tax regime could trigger agitation against the government and the forces out to destabilise the government could cash in on it. They confirmed to The Nation that PM Nawaz Sharif is worried about the agitation by opposition parties against his government and the recent meeting of PML-Q leadership with Allama Tahirul Qadri in London really rang alarm bells in the government circles.
The party leadership had decided to come up with strong rebut to what they termed the ‘political orphans’ and that was the reason the PML-N leaders hit back with strong-worded reaction to these activities and dubbed it as the agenda against progress and development of the country.
Sources said that in the top-level meetings of prime minister with his close financial and political advisers it was decided that government must not provide any weakness or loophole to these, what a PML-N central leader termed, ‘politically disgruntled’ elements with an opportunity to bring out people on roads against the government, for which a comprehensive strategy was devised by the government.
Sources in the government said that it was decided by the government to contain the loadshedding duration from six to eight hours, particularly in the holy month of Ramazan falling in the month of August, across the country, for which Premier Sharif had strictly directed Ministry of Water and Power to ensure that the loadshedding should not exceed that duration.
To ensure the smooth supply of electricity to the people it was decided that if the hydel generation would not increase during the month of July due to any reason the supply of natural gas to CNG stations would be further slashed to provide the same to the power generating units to reduce the power shortfall.
Sources further said that on political and constitutional front the government was already in constant touch with the opposition parties in the Parliament and soon after the passage of the budget, it would vigorously pursue the electoral reforms agenda including the appointment of new Chief Election Commissioner in consultation with Leader of Opposition in the National Assembly and other parliamentary forces. In this way they would effectively dilute the strong threat coming from Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf, which has been in the process of building public pressure for the electoral reforms and revamping of Election Commission of Pakistan by holding public rallies across the country.
Sources in the government said that party leadership was trying to woo the support of Pakistan People’s Party and other political parties having less representation in the Parliament to single out PTI, so that the opposition forces could not get together to make into a formidable force detrimental to the incumbent political dispensation.