Protests Against Inflation
Responding to the call of their leader, supporters and workers of the PTI on Sunday began to pour into the streets of major cities across the country to protest against the searing inflation. As expected, the PTI leadership is exploiting the miseries of the coalition government as it attempts to manage the worsening economic crisis in the country.
While addressing his supporters virtually, former PM and PTI Chairman Imran Khan warned that the country’s economic and political situation will “deteriorate further” if early elections were not held. Seeking to fearmonger and convince his supporters to continue showing up to protests in order to maintain pressure on the government, he stated that he will give a call for the next long march soon and that if free and fair elections are not held soon, further chaos will spread. This state of the economy of course has little to do with when elections will be held, and the inflationary pressures facing Pakistan will continue to mount even if elections are held tomorrow.
Unsurprisingly, Imran Khan also criticised the government for withdrawing subsidies on petroleum products, arguing that his government had resisted the IMF’s demand to increase the prices. This is of course a disingenuous argument—and the former PM knows this too—considering how the prices had to be increased and the PTI planted this landmine for the incoming coalition. This is the continuation of the trend where economic decisions are politicised for personal gain and all political parties have been guilty of this. The hope is that the actors on the receiving end this time around introspect on this matter.
The PTI will follow the script and continue to mount pressure, however the government would be well served to ignore any provocations and just focus on the key issues at hand. The incoming government was aware of the political cost of taking tough decisions and they must now see us through this tough transitional phase.
Getting the IMF programme back on track is the first and most essential step. On Monday, Finance Minister Miftah Ismail expressed hope that an agreement with the IMF would be reached within one or two days. The sooner this happens the better, considering how there is a lot of uncertainty in the markets. Stabilising the economy is the key, but the government must do that while providing relief for the most disadvantaged among us. It is encouraging to see Mr Ismail state that the poor will be given assistance and the government will seek to increase taxes on the well-to-do. There is a lot at stake here and the government cannot afford to be distracted by political stunts while there are multiple crises at hand.