August 19, 2020
ISLAMABAD - The ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Tuesday said that the difficult time was over and the country was now on the “right track” to progress at many fronts, from economic stability to successful foreign diplomacy, under the visionary leadership of Prime Minister Imran Khan. On completion of its two years in government, the ruling party said that PM Imran Khan’s government faced many challenges, since it got power, which were largely created by the previous governments but it brought the country out of these with its “successful strategy and timely decisions.” Now the international neutral institutions and world have been appreciative of the government’s economic policies besides its strategy to overcome the Covid-19 crisis, it added.
“There is a bad news for the opposition parties as PM Imran Khan (after facing all challenges) has now settled on the crease to play a long innings and you will see betterment of the country,” said Asad Umar, the Minister for Planning and Development, said while using the cricket analogies in a reference to cricketer-turned politician Imran Khan. The minister was briefing the media about the last two-year performance of the PTI along with other federal ministers for information, foreign affairs, and industries and advisers to the PM.
Separately, the government also released ministry of information’s compiled 204-page report containing its achievements and reforms in diverse fields during a period from August 18, 2018 — the day when PM Imran Khan took oath of his office - to August 18, 2020. “After struggling for 22 years, Imran Khan became Prime Minister and with the combination of dignity, courage, and grace; he successfully faced worst economic situation, Indian challenge that erupted after the Balakot situation, and Covid-19 crisis,” Umar added.
He said that the criticism on the PM was wrong that he was not used to take along others with himself. Yes, he did not want to take along anyone by giving NRO-like underhand deal, he said in an oblique reference to opposition parties. He said that the history could not find any example the way the PM took actions and decision by engaging all provincial governments and state institutions during the pandemic.
Commenting on the Covid-19 crisis, the planning minister said that Pakistan faced less losses as compared to the other countries of South Asia including India, Bangladesh and Iran due to the successful strategy, use of better technology, and timely decisions taken on the data-based analysis and with practical cohesion. “We have handled the pandemic in a different way,” he said adding that it was the vision of PM Khan that the weakest segments of the society should not go unattended during the crisis and the government chose the option of smart lockdown by keeping in view difficulties of the poor people.
The minister said that the Covid-19 pandemic badly affected the health and economic sectors of the country. Earlier, Information Minister Senator Shibli Faraz in his opening remarks said that for people of Pakistan, the difficult period was over now and good times had come. He said the incumbent government’s decision to present its two-year performance to the public was the essence of democracy. PM Imran Khan ended the politics of “right and left” in the country and introduced the politics of “right and wrong”, he added.
The minister said past rulers focused on their personal welfare instead of working for betterment of people and the country, but now the masses had rejected this brand of politics. He said that PTI wanted to make Pakistan an Islamic welfare state on the pattern of the State of Madina based on compassion and justice. He said the government under the vision of Prime Minister Imran Khan believed in across-the-board accountability, justice, rule of law, merit and transparency.
Talking about the role of his information ministry, Senator Faraz said that in the changed international scenario, its responsibility was not only to project the government policies and its achievements but also counter enemies’ propaganda, both on the internal and external fronts. “The role of our Ministry of Information has become very important as the fifth-generation warfare is under way,” he remarked.
The information minister explained that certain forces wanted to damage the national economy, and spread frustration among the masses but the information ministry would counter this propaganda war aggressively. Adviser to Prime Minister on Finance and Revenue Dr Abdul Hafeez Shaikh in his remarks said that despite internal and external challenges, various economic indicators showed that the country was moving forward due to prudent policies of government.
The adviser said that the performance of various sectors of economy during the first month of the current fiscal year was encouraging as the exports witnessed positive growth of over 6 percent, and cement sales increased by 33 percent. He said that the incumbent government inherited a weak economy as the current account deficit had reached a level of $20 billion due to the stagnation of exports for past five years.
He mentioned that the foreign exchange reserves had also shrunk to half and the country was facing the danger of default at a time when it was already overburdened by excessive borrowings by the past governments. He went on to say that the first priority of the government was to save the country from the threat of being default and resultantly the government took result-oriented decisions and signed a landmark agreement with International Monetary Fund (IMF). The agreement encouraged other financial institutions like World Bank and Asian Development Bank and friendly countries to engage with Pakistan and help it come out of the challenging situation.
The adviser informed the journalists that the government had paid Rs5000 billion loans borrowed by past governments while the current account deficit has been reduced to $3 billion from $20 billion. Dr Shaikh said that the government for the first time decreased its non-development expenditures while expenditures of Army were frozen. He said that the government did not borrow even a single penny from the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) during the last two years, while no supplementary grants were provided to any ministry or government department.
Due to these measures, the country’s tax system was improved, which helped revenues to grow by over 17 percent before the coronavirus outbreak, he added. The adviser said that the government to avert Covid-19 crisis announced Rs1240 billion relief package, with different components, including the biggest one to transfer cash to common and vulnerable people. He also said that Rs 250 billion were disbursed among 16 million people without any discrimination and irrespective of geographic or political affiliation.
He informed that neutral international institutions had appreciated the government policies. Moody’s Fitch Rating and IMF board have appreciated Pakistan for this and resultantly there had been 188 percent increase in foreign investment, he said adding that the Pakistan Stock Exchange witnessed 47 percent growth and was included among the best performing markets of the world by Bloomberg.
On the occasion, Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi told reporters that that a dramatic shift during the last two years could be seen in Pakistan’s foreign policy from diplomatic isolation to effective representation under the leadership of PM Imran Khan. He said Pakistan effectively countered Indian agenda of pushing the country into diplomatic isolation. This was evident from the regional context where all the neighbouring countries including China and Nepal have rejected Indian expansionist designs, he added.
The foreign minister said that they succeeded in transforming the strategic partnership with China into an economic partnership because they had shared objectives. Besides the expanding partnership with the European Union, the government also launched its ‘Engage Africa’ initiative to put their footprint in the largest continent with immense trade and business opportunities.
Qureshi further said that the whole world had acknowledged Pakistan’s positive role in supporting and facilitating the Afghan peace process. “Now Pakistan is seen as part of the solution not as part of problem,” he added. He hoped that the intra-Afghan dialogue would soon commence to bringing durable peace in the country. The foreign minister said the Kashmir issue which had been put on the backburner by the past governments was now made an international issue. He mentioned that the government effectively raised Indian government’s illegal steps, and ceasefire violations etc. at all global forums.
He said it was due to these efforts that the UN Security Council took up Kashmir issue for three times during one-year period. The two reports of 2018 and 2019 over Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir by the UN representatives had fully exposed India. He remarked that the Organization of Islamic Countries had also issued a joint statement over IIOJK condemning the illegal and unilateral Indian actions.
Qureshi also informed about different reforms in the foreign ministry including setting up of crisis management cell during the Covid-19 pandemic and facilitating the return of over 0.2 million stranded expatriates through 478 flights and establishing Foreign Ministers Advisory Council besides launching of E-visa facility. Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Social Protection and Poverty Alleviation, Dr. Sania Nishtar highlighted 15-month long journey of PTI’s Ehsaas Poverty Alleviation Programme.
Listing some initiatives under the Ehsaas programme, she said 80,000 loans are being disbursed every month in 100 disadvantaged districts of the country under Rs. 42.65 billion interest free loans programme. “So far, 844,000 interest free loans (45% women) have been disbursed for small enterprises to graduate the poor out of poverty and set them on the course of economic prosperity.”
Likewise, she said that Rs. 15 billion Ehsaas Amdan Programme is aimed at creating opportunities for the most disadvantaged people through the transfer of small income-generating assets. Launched in 23 disadvantaged districts of Pakistan, the programme will transfer 200,000 productive assets to deserving households (60% women) countrywide. To date, 27,000 assets have been transferred.
As part of Mazdoor ka Ehsaas, the Ehsaas Langar Scheme has been introduced under a public-private partnership initiative feeding more than 600 labourers daily. To date, 12 Langar facilities have been opened nationwide and work on the remaining is quickly underway, she said.
About the Ehsaas Undergraduate Scholarship Programme, Dr. Nishtar said that Rs 20 billion were allocated for 200,000 scholarships over 4 years to support needy students. She also informed that the government allocated Rs 203 billion within just 10 days of lockdown to deliver one-time emergency cash assistance to 16.9 million poor families during the Covid-19 crisis.
Minister for Industries Hammad Azhar in his briefing said that the PTI government introduced mobile phone manufacturing and electric vehicles manufacturing polices and the country was at a takeoff stage for exports of locally made mobile phones. The government has brought package for the construction industry, he added. The ministers and advisers didn’t take questions of journalists on the performance of PTI saying that they had to rush to the cabinet meeting and a separate question and answer session would be arranged for today (Wednesday).
Pakistan People’s Party chief Bilawal Bhutto Zardari yesterday claimed that the PTI-led government had gifted nothing but economic and foreign policy failures. In a tweet on completion of the PTI-led government’s two years in power, Bilawal said Prime Minister Imran Khan had given the worst economy in the country’s history. “Foreign policy failures from Kashmir to Saudi Arabia, ineffective democracy and human rights sufferings have also been gifted by the PTI government,” he said.
He said that unemployment was at an all-time high in these two years whereas the Transparency International had also said corruption is higher than before. Separately yesterday, PPP leader Maula Bakhsh Chandio said that romance between the PPP and the Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) can never last.
“We urge opposition leader (Shehbaz Sharif) to attend the parliamentary sessions. Our romance with the PML-N can never last,” he said at a news conference along with Nafisa Shah here. PPP Secretaries Information from all provinces and deputy secretaries information, Syed Hasan Murtaza, Senator Ajiz Dhamra, Sardar Javed Ayub, Senator Rubina Khalid, Gohar Inqalabi, Shaheen Dar, Barrister Amir Hasan and Chief Media Coordinator Nazir Dhoki were also present on the occasion.
Chandio said the PPP had remained silent on many issues for the sake of national interests but now the PTI-led government can no longer be allowed to continue. Moula Bux Chandio said that Imran Khan used to talk of tsunami, but it had come true in the literal sense as a tsunami of issues is faced by the country right now.
The reason Imran Khan called the Taliban ‘Shaheed (martyr)’ is because he was indebted to them, he claimed. “Imran Khan continuously disrespects reverend personalities in his speeches. He has also brought shame to all revolutionists in the world, by chanting ‘tabdeeli’ (change),” he said. Chandio said the people still remember the name ‘Bhutto’ while Imran Khan is tracing the footsteps of Ziaul Haq and Pervez Musharraf.
Nafisa Shah claimed the PTI had destroyed everything from foreign policy to the country’s economy, with record amounts of loans being taken in the past two years. She said that Punjab’s prosperity had been changed into poverty as after wheat and sugar, the province is now suffering from a crisis of governance as well.
Nafisa Shah said that right now PTI was ruling the country with the help of the International Monetary Fund and were dropping bombs of price hike. “The disparity between the prices of sugar, petrol and wheat at the time of previous governments and that of PTI’s is obvious. The tsunami of price hike has broken our spine, and such laws are being introduced which will result in the shutting down of businesses. The performance of the federal government is no secret,” she added.