This is right course Mr PM!

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PRIME Minister Imran Khan is reported to have informed his party men that the issue of Azadi March or sit-in of JUI(F) would be resolved through reconciliation and that the real issue was the rising inflation. He sought cooperation of the party parliamentarians in controlling {artificial} price-hike and held hoarders responsible for the phenomenon.
The remarks of the Prime Minister convey an impression that the Government has started realizing the ground realities and this augurs well for meeting the challenge on these two fronts. We have been repeatedly pointing out in these columns that irrespective of justification or no justification for protests and sit-ins these have serious implications for political stability and continuation of policies and programmes initiated by the Government to resolve problems being faced by the masses. Initially, the Government did not take the issue of long march seriously and even when it formed a negotiating team to sort out the matter through talks, the members of the team ridiculed the other side dampening prospects for any meaningful progress towards resolution of the issue. The induction of Chaudhry Brothers has given a new direction to the process and there are chances that given the flexibility on both sides a solution would be found despite rhetoric from the two sides. It is, however, important that the issue of sit-in should be sorted out at the earliest as its prolongation would complicate things both for the Government and the Opposition. It is often said that the Opposition has less at stake than the sitting government and, therefore, it is always the government that has to concede. There is so far no flexibility on the part of Maulana Fazlur Rehman who is still adamant to seek resignation of the Prime Minister and demands fresh elections claiming that the general election of 2018 had no credibility. He is also against formation of any Judicial Commission to probe the allegations of rigging in the elections and cites examples like what happened in the constituency of Deputy Speaker Qasim Suri to substantiate his claim about massive rigging which, he says, needs no inquiry. Opposition’s Rahbar Committee is also predicting a new turn in the sit-in in a day or so but Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi is optimistic about the outcome of talks and hopes something good would emerge soon. Under these circumstances the Government should handle the issue of sit-in in a cold-headed manner and a way out can surely be found if the Prime Minister holds extensive consultations with sober minded members of his party on the crisis. As for inflation, the very fact that the Prime Minister held four consecutive meetings on the topic this week is reflective of his seriousness to focus on the problem, which is being viewed as number one by majority of people of Pakistan. However, it may be pointed out that the price-hike is not just because of hoarding as the Prime Minister believes.
It is known to all that the prices have reached to an unprecedented level mainly because of governmental policies and actions and there is need to adopt a holistic approach to address the challenge. How can you check price-hike when the Rupee is losing its worth against the Dollar on a daily basis, there is frequent upward revision in prices of petroleum products despite lowering of oil prices in the international market, electricity and gas tariff increases at the instance of IMF, taxes are hiked and subsidies are withdrawn even for food items. No doubt, the government is contemplating food ration scheme with the objective of providing some relief to the poorest of the poor but what about other segments of the society that are already badly hit by super inflation. The Government acted wisely by delaying implementation of axle load policy for a year as it also contributed into increase in prices due to increased transportation costs. However, the benefit of the delayed implementation is not reaching out to the common man and is being pocketed by truckers especially in the case of sand and gravel. It is also a fact that some members of the business community take advantage of the chaotic conditions and increase prices of products and services and it is here that the federal and the provincial governments should increase vigilance and make the price control mechanism more active and relevant. The Government should also increase the developmental spending to generate economic activity and create job opportunities as unemployment increases severity of price-hike for families.