RESPONDING to the questions of the general public in a live television program – “Aap ka Wazir Azam Awam kay Sath” – over phone, Prime Minister Imran Khan spoke at length on important issues that matter much for the people strongly defending policies of his Government. During the interactive session, which was moderated by PTI leader Senator Faisal Javed Khan, citizens asked questions related to different issues, including the coronavirus vaccine, issues of Balochistan and Gilgit Baltistan, inflation, the opposition, and the concept of Riasat-e-Madina, among others.
The Prime Minister has a reputation of putting across his point of view in an argumentative and effective manner and there was an overall impression that he did so on Monday as well. His admission that inflation was hitting the people hard augurs well because realization about sufferings of the people by an elected leader could form the basis for paying serious attention to the challenge. No doubt, the Prime Minister himself had been chairing meetings of different governmental bodies to review the price situation in the country but so far no worthwhile change has been witnessed. He has also acknowledged that depreciation of rupee against dollar was one of the main factors behind the unprecedented surge in prices of almost all items and services. In the first place, the Government should have considered all pros and cons before letting the rupee shed its value and if devaluation was necessary it should have been done in a balanced manner. Secondly, there is exchange rate stability for the last several months but there is no letup in the upward trend of prices, which shows there are other serious aspects of the issue that the Government must address including frequent upward revisions in the prices of POL products and electricity and gas tariff. Then it is known to all that the decision of the Government to allow export of wheat and sugar and its inability to take action against mafias also complicated the price situation. The Prime Minister has long been urging people to show a bit of patience but for how long as there are no indications as yet of any light at the end of the tunnel. Imran Khan has rightly pointed out that the country could earn hugely by taking steps to promote tourism and has, in fact, given necessary instructions to the newly elected Chief Minister of Gilgit-Baltistan in this regard. Tourism development requires creation of necessary infrastructure and this in turn requires adequate funding by the Government. We have seen during the last over two years that focus is shifting away from infrastructure development and funds meant for such projects in the PSDP are diverted to other non-productive heads, a tendency that needs to be curbed. We have tourism development models before us and the country can learn a lot from the experience of countries like Switzerland and Sri Lanka. As for progress and development of Balochistan, the province has received numerous packages from successive governments but it is time to study why their impact is not visible. The decision of the present Government to introduce 3G and 4G in the province would not only facilitate online education for students but can also prove to be a harbinger of real change if accompanied by provision of electricity, setting up of schools/colleges and building of roads. The Prime Minister has complained about lack of resources for development of Balochistan and merged Tribal Areas but one may point out why we are now showing keen interest in execution of all projects under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) for which non-stop funding is being ensured by China. The Prime Minister has once again declared his resolve not to give NRO to the opposition saying it would be like “committing treason to the country” to pardon the looters. No one would oppose genuine action against looters and plunderers of national wealth but the campaign should be all-encompassing and without any discrimination as only then the country would reap its benefits. He lamented that the Government was still repaying the loans taken by the previous Governments a decade ago but the same is true of the loans being secured by the incumbent Government which will have to be paid by its successor(s). Development of Pakistan on the pattern of the State of Madina is a dream of every patriotic Pakistani but pushing more people below poverty line, rendering thousands jobless and plans to temper with the pension scheme negate the concept of a ‘welfare state’ that the State of Madina was. No one was expecting an overnight change from the PTI Government but some movement towards that direction should have been visible in three years.