PML-N decides to launch campaign against unemployment and inflation

The Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) on Monday announced to launch a countrywide campaign against rampant inflation and unemployment in the country.

Speaking to reporters after a party meeting here in the capital, former prime minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi said the PML-N has also decided to propose an ‘alternative economic strategy’ in order to protect the country from ‘this government’s anti-public policies’. “In light of the rising inflation, minimum wage should be increased to Rs 20,000. Tariffs of power and gas be reverted to that of May 31, 2018, as increase in prices is not justified. Prices of urea and DAP fertilisers be reverted to that of May 31, 2018. Prices of petrol and diesel be brought down to a level where they are tolerable. No new taxes should be introduced in the upcoming budget. Current tax rates should not be increased in the upcoming budget,” he said while spelling out party’s set of demands which he said should be incorporated by the current government in the upcoming budget.

Abbasi said the country’s economy will not have come to this point had the incumbent leadership ‘kept their mouths shut’. “Even today, I offer the same advice. If they cannot speak the truth, then they should not lie either,” he said.

Abbasi demanded that the government come forward with the conditions set by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) so that the ‘public can know the deal we have made with the international lender’. He said there are a lot of ‘suspicions’ regarding the conditions that the government has agreed to with the IMF.

The former prime minister said the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) has raised the policy interest rate by 1.5 per cent all of a sudden which will have an adverse effect on the business community and may also lead to an increase in unemployment. “In any country, if the rate increases even by 0.1pc, it becomes part of a public debate […] whereas here, the budget has not been announced, the deal with the IMF has not even been signed yet and the State Bank increased the policy interest rate by 1.5pc,” he said.

Abbasi denied that the party is planning to protest against the government. “This is a fallen government. We don’t mean to overthrow it, our real aim is to solve people’s problems,” he said. “Our goal is not to break up the government or seek popularity … our goal is to resolve the public concerns,” he said. “If the solution to the people’s problems is in toppling the government, then a decision in this regard will be made by the APC. If the solution is in elections, then a demand in this regard will be made by the APC after Eid,” he said.

Criticising the National Accountability Bureau (NAB), Abbasi said a denial should have been issued in the aftermath of an interview given by the anti-graft body’s chairman, Justice (r) Javed Iqbal, to a newspaper. “The statements made in the interview are not categorised in the jurisdiction of the NAB chair,” he said. “That interview was not of the NAB chairman but of Justice sahab and the press conference by the NAB chief has created more doubts. We will hold a press conference in two days in this regard,” he said.

‘The reality of the anti-corruption watchdog has been laid bare in front of the Pakistani people,’ he claimed, adding, “Today, everyone says what the NAB is doing is not accountability but revenge”. “We stuck by our slogan of ‘respect the vote’ in the past and we stick by it in present too; today, Nawaz Sharif is in jail because of his viewpoint,” he said. “I do not consider anyone to be corrupt. I only deem anyone to be corrupt if there is evidence against him. If there is evidence against Nawaz Sharif and Asif Ali Zardari, then present it in the court,” he added.

The meeting was held in the opposition leader’s chamber and was attended by PML-N parliamentarians and the party’s central, provincial and district leadership. Maryam Nawaz, one of PML-N’s vice presidents, also attended the meeting. This is the first party meeting that she has attended since being appointed as one of the party’s vice presidents.

Speaking to the media after the meeting, Maryam rubbished the notion that there are differences within the Sharif brothers, saying that Shahbaz Sharif considers Nawaz Sharif as his leader and shares the latter’s narrative. “Shahbaz Sharif recognises Nawaz Sharif as his leader… Maybe his way of expressing [the narrative] is different,” she said, and added that the narrative of the whole party is the same which was ‘vote ko izzat do’ (respect the vote).

In response to a question regarding PML-N’s weak role in the opposition, she hinted that the party will play a stronger role in the parliament from now on. She also criticised the NAB, declaring that the anti-corruption watchdog was had ‘no credibility’.

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