As anti-uncontrolled inflation agitations hit the streets all over Pakistan, opposition leader in the National Assembly Shahbaz Sharif told the House on September 21 that people were forced “to beg for alms just to feed their families once a day.”
Media reports say parents are pulling out their children from schools because they can no longer more afford their fees.
Shahbaz, who is President of the Nawaz Muslim League (PML-N), said those belonging to the working class could no longer afford to run their kitchens for a meal a day.
Jamaat-i-Islami Chief Sirajul Haq called Prime Minister Imran Khan’s team “incapable rulers” during whose rule prices of basic food commodities have gone up by 3 to 4 times.
The current upsurge in agitations has been kicked off by Imran’s government decision to collect over 50 percent levy on petroleum products and to raise gas prices by 30 to 40%.
PMLK-N Vice President Maryam Nawaz taunts that Imran is surrounded by petrol mafia.
Her guess is that he may not survive as Prime Minister beyond 2021. On October 20, Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) held a massive rally in Rawalpindi, which houses the military General Headquarter (GHQ), and shouted the Imran government was a thief of electricity and gas.
In a country of 220 million souls, unemployment rate is 16 percent. Before the 2018 elections Imran has promised to create 10 million jobs.
But since then, 5 million people have been rendered jobless. Job creation in a country where the industry is in doldrums, is impossible.
For long the industry remains gas and power starved.
Therefore, the industry cannot generate employment or produce goods for exports.
Pakistan is agitated that while it is a cotton producing country, it is Bangladesh which exports cotton garments although it does not produce cotton.
The News editorial from September 20 is critical of the government’s handling of economy.
It writes: “Job markets in Pakistan remain volatile in the absence of a sound industrial base that is competitive at the international level. The government needs to create new jobs by facilitating businesses and industries.
"Instead, it has been encouraging real-estate business that is mostly based on speculations.
"The business and industrial sectors in the country have been laying off their employees in droves.”
This shows wrong, and rather foolish, economic priorities of the Government.
Add to this Imran’s repeated claims to make Pakistan a Madina of Prophet Mohammad’s time.
However, in the past three years of his rule, he has made no move towards that goal.
Jamaat-i-Islami laughs at this claim and reminds him that interest on loans in Madina was haram (forbidden), whereas Pakistan’s whole economy is interest-based.
Today, the country’s foreign debts are more than $122 billion dollars. Can it refuse to pay interest on them? Can it refuse it’s all weather friend China whose most loans under the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) are at commercial rates.
Shahbaz Sharif claimed in the National Assembly that the Imran Khan government took thousands of billion in loans but did not even lay a single brick of any development projects and only buried the nation deeper and deeper into the debt ditch.
It is true in three years Imran hardly did any visible constructive work. He spent most of the time accusing the Nawaz Sharif family of stealing the country’s wealth.
But the people are tired of hearing Imran accusing Nawaz Sharif of the current economic mess while himself not doing anything to correct.
In the past three years, Imran has changed many Finance Ministers indicating the mess in the country’s economy.
Keeping Pakistan’s Khaki clad history in mind, one may be tempted to make conclusions which some people may dismiss as far-fetched. One factor that united warring opposition parties together into Pakistan Democratic Movement in 2019 is their belief that the Army rigged the 2018 elections to bring Imran to power.
They call him the selection (by the Army) Prime Minister.
It is to be noted that the PDM started with a bang but within a year scaled down as the PML (N) and the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) began to fight PDM’s President Maulana Fazlur Rahman and was made a non-entity.
But all this time, the common man was crying because of skyrocketing prices. But the PDM appeared to be indifferent. Now there is a sudden change.
In the past about one month, three developments happened:
(i) Army-Imran tussle over the change of the ISI Chief’s;
(ii) PDM’s agitations, and
(iii) Jamaat-i-Islami carrying on its own anti-government campaign.
The last one is significant. In the past Opposition’s anti-government movement succeeded only when the Jamaat joined.
It is said to be close to GHQ.