Concerns of PTI core committee

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THE Core Committee of the ruling party, which met in Islamabad on Monday with Prime Minister Imran Khan in the chair, expressed concern on two issues – notices issued by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to Federal Ministers Azam Swati and Fawad Chaudhry and continuous rise in the oil prices in the international market.

The meeting also took stock of the rising inflation and holding of local bodies elections and the Minister for Information and Broadcasting later told newsmen that the Prime Minister would announce a big package within a day or two to mitigate impact of inflation and that the move would benefit roughly ten million people.

The rising inflation is rightly becoming the number one issue of the country and the focus of political activities as it is getting out of control with serious consequences for the layman, who feels financially and economically squeezed with the passage of almost every day.

The worst aspect of the situation is that the Government is relaying depressing signals about its inability to manage the problem and the latest example is the Monday’s statement of Advisor to the Prime Minister on Finance Shaukat Tarin, who said the inflation was a global phenomenon, frankly adding that the Government has no solution to the challenge.

His remarks come in the wake of renewed pressure on the masses as prices of both wheat flour and sugar increased significantly and that too at a time when the authorities were telling people that their prices would come down.

Similarly, latest data shows the inflation rate jumped to 9.2% in October 2021 – the highest in four months – due to government induced policies that led to a double-digit increase in prices of non-perishable food items, electricity and transport.

The concern expressed by the Core Committee about increase in oil prices in the international market could be an indication that the burden might be shifted to the masses during next bi-monthly review of POL prices in mid-November as the OGRA-proposed increase was not passed on to the consumers in the latest review in the face of political happenings in the country.

It is, therefore, to be seen what the frequently-quoted package means for the ordinary citizen and to what extent it mitigates sufferings of the people.

However, the Information Minister himself has announced that the package would benefit 10 million people, which constitute roughly less than half a percent of the total population of 210 million and the question arises what about the remaining 99.5% of the population.

No doubt, Covid-19 and rising prices of oil in the international market have something to do with the local inflation but the trend can be arrested by stopping rupee’s nose dive against dollar and resisting the temptation to increase electricity and gas tariff repeatedly.

As for local government elections, we lost precious time because of petty politics, depriving people of the benefit of solving their problems at their doorsteps.

The decision of the Core Committee that the mayors of cities and districts in Punjab would also be elected through direct elections is a step in the right direction as, in the past, there had been complaints about horse-trading in the election for these slots.

The decision to hold elections timely could also have a positive impact on the overall political environment as the process of local elections might help shift focus and energies of all political parties to this democratic exercise, away from politics of protest and rallies.

Issuance of notices to the two ministers by the ECP is nothing new as such notices are often issued and withdrawn based on ground situations.

There were reasons behind issuance of notices and prudence demands flexibility in the attitude to induce the ECP to withdraw them.

Some media reports suggest that the Prime Minister has asked his cabinet and party colleagues to accompany the two ministers during their next appearance before the Commission as a mark of solidarity.

This is also done by other parties but the objective should not be to pressurize or intimidate institutions.

Instead of adopting the course of confrontation, the Ministers might consider withdrawing their remarks, which are considered contemptuous by some circles.

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