ISLAMABAD - Pakistan People’s Party Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari believes that the ‘new Pakistan’ represented uncertainty, indecisiveness, lack of respect for law and a total lack of direction.
The PPP chief said that the first 20 days of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI)-led government were over but ‘We now know that there is no preparation’. “The 100 days will also pass,” he said in a paper presented by the PPP leader Nafisa Shah at a news conference on Wednesday. Bilawal promised that he would lead opposition on issues of the people of Pakistan.
“The only thing new in ‘new Pakistan’ is new bills. We condemn increase in electricity bills by Rs2 and the gas bills by 46 per cent; increase in fertiliser rates, toll tax rates and identity cards fee,” he said.
On completion of first 20 days, he said, “We know how many cars the government will sell; how many international phone calls it messed up, how many helicopter rides the PM took to Bani Gala, but we are waiting to hear from the government on how it will resolve the economic and political challenges faced by the country in new Pakistan.”
Bilawal said that the PTI propaganda wing used to call their opponents ‘patwaris’ (revenue officers). “Today at least two deputy commissioners have complained against the PTI lawmakers for forcing them to post their favourite ‘patwaris’, and one district police officer was transferred under pressure from the first family,” he added. A grade-21 officer, Bilawal said, has been appointed as principal secretary to the prime minister, adding that he would be giving directions to grade-22 officers. A management group officer, the PPP chief said, has been appointed as FBR chairman, when seniors in their own service structure deserve and are technically qualified. He said that an economic crisis was looming in the country, yet indecisiveness of the government was visible, as they had no clue on meeting the current account deficit of $9 billion.
The stock market, Bilawal said, is wavering because there is no clarity on what the government would do on the economic front. “The finance minister wants the Parliament to ask him to go to the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Surely, the Parliament can debate a certain issue. But why should the Parliament take responsibility for a decision that has to be of the government. Why should the Parliament take the blame for a U-turn that is on the cards,” he questioned.
The PPP chief said that the only step the PTI government had taken was formation of Economic Advisory Councils with Harvard and Princeton universities’ economists, but it could not find a single qualified woman in Pakistan with more than 700 million to 800 million women in the country and in expatriate community. He said that the government had yet to give even a hint of what it would do with a circular debt of Rs1.18 trillion. “We have not heard one word on the most acute problem faced by the country – load shedding,” he said.
Bilawal said that the opposition had rejected the previous government’s budget. “But the new finance minister has not informed us whether he will present a new budget or follow the old one,” he added.
The PPP chief asked what government’s intentions were for Pakistan Steel Mills whose employees had been suffering for the past 5 years from irregular salaries, no work, and no health and other allowances.
“What are government’s intentions for Pakistan International Airlines, whose staffers have also suffered under Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz government? So far the Supreme Court looks more decisive on the PIA than the government,” he said.
Bilawal said that the in the 100 days plan, people heard of many policy decisions on agriculture and the government spoke of imposing an agriculture emergency. The government’s priority on agriculture can be gauged by the fact that so far there is no minister for food security in the country, he said.
The PPP chief said that the largest social safety net programme of Pakistan, the Benazir Income Support Programme, which is undergoing a survey, lacks any political commitment and pledge from the PTI-led government. “Will the very active information minister inform us that what the government direction is on this important programme,” he asked.
Bilawal said that Utility Store Corporation supplies were suspended which was condemnable. “Yet there was not a word from industries minister on what it would do with this important institution,” he added.
Bilawal said that in the PPP’s tenure, the Utility Stores registered profits every year and food subsidies helped with the nutrition needs of the poorest of the poor. “In Nawaz Sharif’s time, like all institutions, the USC was allowed to suffer from neglect. Today, if the malnutrition problems of women and children of this country are to be resolved, the Utility Stores can play an effective role in food subsidies to the poorest of the poor,” Bilawal said.