MUZAFFARABAD: Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif Sunday reiterated that the country was facing substantial financial challenges, with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) combing every book and every subsidy during the ongoing negotiations over the Ninth Review of the $7 billion loan programme.
Addressing a special session of the Azad Jammu and Kashmir Legislative Assembly (AJKL) on the Kashmir Solidarity Day here on Sunday, he said the IMF delegation, headed by Nathan Porter, and the government began the make-or-break discussions last week. Pakistan needs to complete the review to stave off default.
Subsequently, the government had increased liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) price by 30 per cent and finalised a minimum of Rs6 per unit average increase in electricity rates between now and August.
Over the weekend, the premier said the IMF delegation was giving a “very tough time” to Finance Minister Ishaq Dar and his team.
PM Shehbaz again said that the Fund was scrutinising the records of various ministries and reviewing “everything” and “every subsidy”. “The IMF is looking critically at every book, be it petroleum, finance, commerce or the power sector,” the premier said. “They are looking at each and everything. Every subsidy.”
The prime minister shed light on how the country had been on a “begging spree”, calling for it to be stopped once and for all.
“We have to stay alive but only how alive nations live and not by begging,” he said. “This has been going on for 75 years. We have to put a stop to this.”
The premier vowed to break “this habit of begging” that country was embroiled in.
“This will stop when the entire nation [stands] united to fight inflation and vows to produce their own resources,” he said. “It was very easy to say so but doing it was harder. We deliver speeches but after an hour I forget what I had said.”
For revitalising the Kashmir cause, PM Shehbaz stressed forging unity and solidarity by shunning all political differences. “The founder of Pakistan Quaid-i-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah had declared Kashmir the jugular vein of Pakistan,” he said.
In Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IIOJK), for the last 75 years, the premier said, the blood of innocent Kashmiris was spilled mercilessly.
He also recalled that in 2019, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi had deprived the IIOJK of its special status, turning the whole occupied valley into an open jail.
PM Shehbaz concluded that the government and people of Pakistan would continue to extend diplomatic, political, and moral support to the Kashmiri brothers and sisters till they attain their cherished goal of freedom from India’s unlawful and forcible occupation.
PM Shehbaz Sharif stressed on forging unity and solidarity by shunning all the political differences which would further infuse vigour and strength to the Kashmir cause.
The prime minister said they should strive to make Pakistan economically stronger. As a Pakistani, they should shun their political differences and work together to secure the legitimate rights of the Kashmiri people.
Referring to the global scenario, the prime minister said there was the rule of “might is right” and expressed that it was never too late to mend and if they resolved with unity, they would secure freedom for the Kashmiri people.
PM Shehbaz Sharif separately said the people of Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IIOJK) were waging a relentless struggle of epic proportions to realise their dream of freedom from the Indian yoke. “Through their sacrifices, they have kept the torch of freedom burning. It is my faith that their dreams will soon see the light of day,” the prime minister said on his Twitter handle.
In a related tweet, he said, today the whole of Pakistan came together to express its unflinching solidarity and support to Kashmiri brothers and sisters, who remained undeterred by the oppressive Indian occupation apparatus in the struggle for UN-sanctioned right to self-determination.
In another tweet, Shehbaz Sharif expressed gratitude to the people of Pakistan, including overseas Pakistanis, for their passionate participation in the observance of Kashmir Solidarity Day.