‘Difficult times ahead’ for country, warns PM Shehbaz

| Shehbaz Sharif tells senators PTI govt violated agreement with IMF | Says conditions for deal with IMF finalised
but ‘positive results will take some time’ | Directs FIA to investigate poor quality of work on Murree Expressway
| Stresses use of modern technology in mining sector

ISLAMABAD    –    Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif said Thursday that the coalition government is committed to steer the country out of the difficult economic situation and vowed to prioritise steps aimed at bringing prosperity and development.

Addressing the senators of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), the prime minister said that though the country could still face the difficult times ahead due to the inefficiency of previous regime, yet the coalition government would counter every challenge effectively.

The whole coalition partners, he added, were unanimous that thee 14-month tenure would be used for reformation and improvement by keeping the country ahead of political interests.

He pointed out that the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf government had struck a deal with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to pass on the change in fuel prices to the people, and had also agreed to raise petroleum levy by Rs30.  The PTI government accepted the conditions of International Monetary Fund to impose 30 rupees Petroleum Development Levy and 17 percent General Sales Tax and later violated this agreement, he added.

However, he said, the previous government quashed the deal and suddenly reduced the petroleum prices in March (2022) at a time when the same had skyrocketed globally. This abnormal imbalance left the country in a difficult economic situation, he added.

The prime minister said his government would keep the nation on board regarding difficult economic decisions and not deceive them, unlike the PTI regime. The conditions for the deal with the IMF had been finalised, however, its positive results in the shape of development would take some time, he added. Shehbaz Sharif stressed the need for strengthening the national economy by taking effective steps.

He said the PTI government had no empathy for the common man as it ended several projects of the last Pakistan Muslim League-N tenure that were aimed at public welfare.

He said our forefathers had rendered immense sacrifices to establish a separate homeland to lead a comfortable life. However, during the last 75 years, all governments, including civil and military, could not help get that dream materialised. He said government is taking practical steps to end load-shedding in the country.

PM Shehbaz said China, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Qatar always supported Pakistan in difficult times, besides siding at the diplomatic level. He mentioned that the recent $2.3 billion loan from China was a respite in the current trying times.

For the first time in history, he said, a genuine tax was imposed on the net income of affluent persons to provide relief to poor, who were the real builders of Pakistan. Also, to reduce the burden on poor, Rs 2,000 stipend was announced to provide them relief, he added. He termed it a political and religious obligation of the rich to accommodate the deserving people and contribute to the prosperity of nation.

He said in next few days, he would address the nation to take them on board regarding the steps taken by the government to improve the economic situation. The prime minister regretted that several welfare projects launched by PM Nawaz Sharif were stopped by the PTI government. The laptop scheme was termed a “political bribe”, but the time showed that it became a source of online connectivity for the students during COVID-19 pandemic, he added.

He said Pakistan did not need a “Naya Pakistan”, but the Pakistan of Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah.

Shehbaz Sharif said the PTI regime with its negative approach inflicted damage to the ties with other countries; however, the present government was taking steps to mend them for the benefit of the nation.

‘Use of modern technology in mining sector’

Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif on Thursday stressed the use of modern technology for the exploration of minerals and also for effective utilization of raw materials for power generation.

The prime minister stated this in a meeting with a delegation of All Pakistan Mines and Minerals Association led by Minister for Housing and Works Maulana Abdul Wasay.

The meeting discussed various sessions carried out to harmonize the exploration and drainage system of high quality coal, iron ore and other precious minerals keeping in view international standards.

The prime minister directed to take benefit from the reserves of coal in Thar and Lakhra, and also the iron cores in Mianwali and Chiniot.

He also directed to present a report on the development of the mining sector in the country, and set up a committee comprising representatives of the ministries of Energy and Industry & Production, Federal Board of Revenue and other relevant provincial commissions.

In addition, the prime minister directed to form a sub-committee headed by Petroleum Minister Dr Musaddiq Malik, to oversee the development in mining sector.

‘Murree Expressway’

Prime Minister Muhammad Shehbaz Sharif Thursday directed the National Highway Authority to get the Murree Expressway project vetted by the Chinese experts to make it sustainable against snowfall, land sliding, and erosion.

The prime minister, in a briefing by the NHA on the rehabilitation of the Murree Expressway, pointed out the frequent damage to the road and the retaining wall, which, he said, raised questions on the design and quality of the work.

Citing the quality of construction work on the Hazara Motorway as a “treat to watch”, he said the NHA should consult the contractor of the said road to provide consultancy on how to avoid further wastage of the public money on the project.

The prime minister also instructed to assign an investigation to the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) to probe the award of the contract and fix responsibility on the people concerned for the poor quality of the work.

He asked the NHA to immediately stop work on the project unless the Chinese company vetted the project and provide guidelines to move ahead. He called for replicating the Hazara Motorway model to ensure better quality of work.

The prime minister was told that a Geotech consultant had been engaged who had also been part of the Hazara Motorway project.

It was informed that the project was completed with delay in 2008 owing to the acquisition of forest land and difficult terrain.

Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif observed that the damage to the retaining wall had become a permanent feature and reiterated his call for engaging a consultant to suggest the specifications of the road.

He said instead of allowing the mushroom growth of kiosks and restaurants, two proper rest areas should be developed at equal distances to provide quality services to the tourists.

He also directed the authorities concerned to curb the illegal construction activity in Jhika Gali.

It was told that the previous government had allowed vertical construction in the area like that of Lahore and that the administration had identified 575 buildings violating the bylaws.

The prime minister directed a complete survey of such construction and sought a detailed presentation.

Regarding the New Murree, he said a consultant firm from the countries like Switzerland should be engaged to suggest a development plan for the area without damaging the natural beauty. The consultant should suggest good interventions for the tourists like the cable transport to discourage the movement of vehicles to the tourist resort.

He also instructed the administration to ensure proper testing of the existing cable car to prevent the recurrence of any accident as took place in the recent past.

PM Shehbaz  Sharif also spoke to JUI-F Chief Maulana Fazal ur Rehman on phone and discussed with him the prevailing political situation and also took him into confidence on progress  made so far on talks with TTP.

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