Govt on defensive

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THE so-called ‘mines’ laid by the Imran Khan Government during its last few weeks in power have started taking their toll as the coalition government is finding it difficult todefend the unprecedented hike in the prices of petroleum products at the instance of the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

The impact of the sharp increase on the life of the people is so serious that even members of the treasury benches as well as otherwise friendly opposition in the National Assembly are alike in criticizing the hike, demanding of the authorities concerned to withdraw the increase.

And in the Senate, the opposition on Thursday rejected the latest increase in petrol and diesel prices and stormed out of the house, billing it a bid to push the country towards civil war.

Mindful of the sharp reaction, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif turned to twitter to try to explain the situation saying that he was acutely aware of the impact that a fuel price hike causes.

He, however, clarified that the Government is left with no choice but to raise the prices due to the IMF deal that the PTI government signed, adding that he will take the nation into confidence on the specifics of the IMF-PTI deal soon.

The Premier also expressed the confidence that the country would be out of the economic difficulties soon.

There can be no two opinions that in the given economic and financial state of affairs, the government had two options before it – either to allow the country to default or take some of the toughest measures that the previous government had agreed to with the IMF for revival of the stalled programme but opted to violate the accord sensing its ouster in the backdrop of an effective motion of no-confidence by the combined opposition.

The government, after internal discussions, opted to go for the second option of taking tough measures at the cost of its popularity but this was what the interest of the country demanded.

However, we believe the government should have made details of the agreement with the IMF available before hiking the prices of POL products to prepare grounds for the unpopular decision.

Otherwise too, it is somewhat irrelevant for people of Pakistan as to who entered into the deal with the IMF and who renegotiated it to unlock the assistance not just from the IMF but also from other donors.

For the common man, it is the impact of the sharp hike that matters as the vicious cycle of price-hike is assuming monstrous dimensions especially when the Government seems to be helpless in checking further devaluation of the rupee.

It is because of lack of a clear cut policy and strategy that people of Pakistan are left to suffer on three accounts – increase in price of oil in the internal market, steep fall in the value of rupee against dollar and plan to impose petroleum levy over and above the transfer of actual cost of oil in the international market to the domestic consumers.

This position is unacceptable and people rightly expect from the ‘experienced’ team of the Government to find out out-of-box solutions to safeguard interests besides pursuing a policy to consolidate the economy.

The Prime Minister has also wondered whether those who struck the worst-ever deal with the IMF and took patently bad economic decisions have the conscience to face the truth adding how can they pretend to be innocent when what the nation is going through is clearly their doing?

However, in the free for all type of politics that we witness in Pakistan, this is what we see happening actually on the ground.

Easily forgetting that the present situation owes its existence to the decisions taken by his Government, former Prime Minister Imran Khan has decided to exploit the situation to mislead the public opinion by asking people to come out on streets on Sunday to protest against the hike in prices of petroleum products.

This is a non-serious approach as whoever is taking the required decisions to resolve economic challenges of the country should be extended necessary support by all players as this is a question of avoiding a default.

There should be no politics on the economic woes of the country especially when no one including Imran Khan has any perfect idea to handle the situation in a better manner.