FeaturedNationalVOLUME 18 ISSUE # 21

One year of disaster

The current Pakistan Democratic Movement has completed one year in office after ousting former Prime Minister Imran Khan through a stage-managed no-confidence motion. However, the 13-party ruling alliance must have realized that it was a blunder, which not only harmed their political standing but also brought worst misery to the people of the country.

In fact, the ruling alliance has given a new political life to Imran Khan and his Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) party, which was losing popularity because of rising inflation in its last days. If left to complete its term, the party would not have won more than two dozen of seats in the National Assembly in the general elections. However, the PDM parties were forced to end their differences and join hands against the PTI government. Their leaders also acted hastily because corruption and money-laundering cases against them had entered their final stages. They were forced to oust the government of Prime Minister Imran Khan. However, the result is that he has become Pakistan’s most popular leader and the current ruling parties, 13 in number, dread to go to polls and are using all possible tactics to delay them.

It was a worst year for the people of Pakistan as prices of food soared to a level not seen in the history of the country. The government, in a bid to curtain the current account deficit, adopted contractionary policies which squeezed the economy. As a result, thousands of industries have closed down and millions of people have lost their jobs. The devastating floods also piled up misery on the common people.

A PTI white paper, released on the anniversary of the PDM government, details its failure on the economic front, human rights violations, political exploitation of the institutions, confrontation with the judiciary, enslaved foreign policy and deteriorating law and order. It says the PDM government, through a conspiracy toppled an elected government with 6 percent growth during that year and ruined the country’s economy because it lacks any economic policy. “They brought the country to the verge where there has been no other option but to beg the IMF, and the price of which is only paid by the people of the country,” it says. It maintains that the PTI had inherited an almost defaulted economy in 2018 and due to the tireless efforts by then PM Imran Khan and his team, the growth was recorded at 6 percent for consecutive last two years of the PTI government. The paper claims the PDM government has no roadmap to pull out of the prevailing economic crisis it has created due to its incompetence. “During the first 45 days, they had no clue whether they would continue to run the government or not, whether to approach the IMF or not. And when an order was received from the “top”, they decided to approach the IMF,” the paper claims.

The PTI alleged that the IMF was not happy due to the policies of the PDM government, while its policies led to destruction of the industrial and export sector. “The PDM government’s previous “people-friendly budget” further angered the IMF and consequently the Fund put forward more tough demands. The tax target of Rs 7 trillion was insufficient which was later upgraded to Rs 7.4 trillion while the GDP target of 5 percent was unrealistically high. Miftah Ismail was removed and Ishaq Dar was brought in for making experiments with the country’s economy which led to its further deterioration. The dollar rose abnormally high against the rupee. Petrol, gas and electricity prices also increased significantly. Pakistan’s debt increased further to Rs13000 billion, while inflation has reached a 50-year high,” it recounts.

According to the PTI, the economy is facing a technical decline and the GDP is expected to decline 2 to 3 percent during the current year. It added that during the last nine months, there has been a decline of Rs 300 billion in tax collection that also led to stalled negotiation with the IMF. Details of police and Rangers’ operation at PTI Chairman Imran Khan’s residence at the Zaman Park, cases against him and other leaders and workers of the party and arrests are also part of the white paper.

In its latest report, the World Bank has significantly lowered Pakistan’s current-year growth forecast, saying the country’s economic growth prospects have weakened due to tighter financial conditions and limited fiscal space. It expects Pakistan’s economy to grow at 0.4pc in the current year, from its October forecast of 2pc growth. “Elevated global and domestic food prices are contributing to greater food insecurity for South Asia’s poor who spend a larger share of income on food,” it noted.

It is clear that Pakistan’s economy will contract further which would lead to shutting down of more industries and more people would lose jobs. There is also no prospect of relief from high prices in the country because of national and international factors. On the other hand, last year’s floods also harmed the economy and contributed to high prices of food. In the situation, Imran Khan should thank the PDM parties for ousting him and taking the blame of all problems of the country and his failures on their shoulders.