ISLAMABAD: Lashing out at the federal government over the country’s economic situation and the deal with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari on Wednesday dubbed Prime Minister Imran Khan as the “crisis of this century”.
Addressing the National Assembly, Bilawal said: "There is a crisis in every century and the crisis of this century is Imran Khan.” He said that the government's deal with the IMF would have devastating effects on the nation.
"You went to the IMF when you were weak [...] and you made a weak deal with the IMF. We will not bear the burden of the deal, it is the common man and the poor people who will bear its burden," the PPP chairman said.
He warned the parliament that the Finance Bill 2021 will bring a "tsunami of inflation" to the country. The government is seeking to pass the Finance Bill 2021 and SBP Amendment Bill as these are pre-requisites to the deal with the IMF.
Bilawal said the government's "arrogance" stopped it from holding talks with the Opposition over its deal with the IMF. "We asked you to consult with Asif Ali Zardari and Shahbaz Sharif, but you (government) rejected the proposal."
Referring to the local government poll results in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, the PPP leader said that the PTI will "soon face a public reaction due to its poor economic policies".
PTI lawmakers "could not even defend the government’s economic performance in their own constituencies", he remarked.
Bilawal said through the proposed bills, the government seeks to hike taxes on cars, petrol, cycles, motorbikes, mobile phones, internet and other things.
"You aren't just taxing imported items, but you are also imposing taxes on locally manufactured goods. The government is taxing eggs, poultry, and seeds — this is the economic murder of farmers," he said.
Bilawal said that never before have "such bad economic indicators in the history of the country" been witnessed. He also rejected the SBP Amendment Bill and said that the government, through the bill, was seeking to make the central bank "answerable to IMF instead of Parliament".
Bilawal — also referring to the Federal Board of Revenue's (FBR) Tax Directories of Parliamentarians for the tax year 2019 — asked the prime minister which scheme he had invested in that propelled a 2000% increase in his income after assuming office.
"Konsi scheme hai yeh (Which scheme is this) that Khan sahab became rich and made the entire country poor?" he asked.
Responding to the PPP chairman, Federal Minister for Energy Hammad Azhar asked the Opposition lawmakers to sit and be patient while he addresses the House.
"They (PPP and PML-N) bankrupted the economy during their tenures. When we came to power, we had to first pay back their loans. However, they speak as if all was good during their governments,” the minister said.
Admitting that the people were suffering due to the current economic situation, Azhar said inflation had surged across the globe as supply chains broke down due to COVID-19. "But we launched the Ehsaas Programme for the affectees," he said.
He told Bilawal that 90% of the taxes that he mentioned in his speech would be refunded, and that the PPP chairman was not informed about a thing called the “tax adjust appeal”.
"There is a crisis of fertiliser as the mafias are getting stronger due to a weak government in Sindh. The shortage of fertilisers is due to smuggling," Azhar said.
The energy minister said Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly Shahbaz Sharif had called the PTI-led government "manhoos (sinister)".
"Let me tell them, that at the end of PML-N's tenure, the circular debt was Rs450 billion, and we have reduced it to an annual Rs130 billion," said Azhar.
He said the government is also trying to bring down the Rs2,300 billion current account deficit.
Azhar said Shahbaz had called the government a "thief". Hitting out at the PML-N president for the remark, he said: "Our prime minister's servants don't have billions of rupees in their accounts."
The energy minister said the incumbent government struck cheaper liquified natural gas (LNG) deals with the same company that the previous regimes had. He said the previous governments had struck costly LNG agreements, and that the current account deficit was high due to their expensive deals.
The energy minister said the price of petroleum products is high due to the rates in the international market and claimed that false propaganda was being churned out against the government.
For his part, Balochistan National Party-Mengal (BNP-M) chief Akhtar Mengal said unemployment is increasing in Balochistan, and that he had expectations from the Centre to resolve this issue.
"Electricity supply in Balochistan is negligible [...] no funds from the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) are being spent on the province," he said.
The BNP-M chief said despite billions of dollars being spent on Gwadar's CPEC projects, the inhabitants of the area are "forced to drink dirty water".
He said that the gas which is extracted from Balochistan's Sui town was not being provided to the people of the province.
"OGDCL [Oil & Gas Development Company] and Pakistan Petroleum have looted Balochistan's resources [...] every government loots Balochistan, our resources are being put on sale."
He said that the uprising in Balochistan was due to "injustice", and that the previous and incumbent federal governments "struck deals" with international companies, but did not give the province its due share.
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