The PML-N on Thursday took the PTI-led government to task over the economic policies it has adopted in the last three years, saying Prime Minister Imran Khan ‘has no knowledge of the basics of economics’ and makes decisions in line with advice from ‘courtiers’. Addressing a virtual seminar attended by PML-N budget analysts, party president Shehbaz Sharif claimed that the government is pushing out wrong statistics and misinforming the public since the start of the PTI tenure. “The government’s statistics [regarding the budget] have already become a subject of debate,” he said. “Their past is evident and they have been putting forth forged figures,” he said. “This comes on top of the government’s worst performance and major failures,” he further said. “We will present a joint stance after holding consultation with all the parties in the Parliament,” he added. Former prime minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi claimed that during the incumbent government’s tenure, as many as five million people have become unemployed. He further claimed the PTI-led government has pushed 20 million people into poverty and has heavily burdened people by increasing the price of electricity by more than 62%. He said the PML-N had ‘taken out 20 million people out of poverty’ when it was in power. Financial losses due to line losses and electricity theft have gone up to 4.5%, he claimed, adding that Sui Northern Gas Pipelines Limited and Sui Southern Gas Company Limited were ‘bankrupt’ today. Abbasi said the country’s biggest issue is circular debt. “Pakistan’s economy has shrunk by $19 billion in the last three years.” He claimed that even with the impact of coronavirus on the economy retroactively applied to the PML-N government’s economic indicators, the common man’s income would have risen by 25%. “People have received the gift of inflation through a stolen election,” he said, implying that the general elections of 2018 were rigged. Former finance minister Miftah Ismail, speaking during the seminar, said the current regime was ‘toying with the economy’ and claimed it had increased the loans of the government and state institutions by Rs 45,000 billion. He said Imran Khan even takes food for “langar” as part of its feeding the poor initiative from Saylani, an NGO. The former finance minister claimed the fiscal deficit during Imran Khan’s tenure in 2019 stood at Rs3,829 billion, while it moved up to Rs3,892 billion in 2020. Finance Minister Shaukat Tarin also admitted that an increase in interest rate increases debt, Ismail said and claimed the government was able to increase exports by a mere 1% after devaluing the currency. “We were expecting a 6% increase in Pakistan’s GDP as the government had taken loans worth Rs15,000 billion,” the former finance minister said. The government, despite procuring such massive loans, is still predicting a GDP growth of 4%, he said, adding that “loans of nearly Rs25,000 billion had now moved up to Rs38,600 billion”. Also addressing the seminar, former Sindh governor Muhammad Zubair said four finance people have held the finance ministry’s portfolio during this government’s tenure. “Where are those 200 people who claimed they could fix the economy?” he asked. Slamming the government, he said PM Imran Khan had sacked PTI’s “poster boy” Asad Umar as the finance minister within a span of eight months. Former interior minister Ahsan Iqbal said PML-N had approved development projects for Chilas and, Mirpur, and Muzaffarabad in 2016, “but even after five years, PTI is unable to inaugurate them”. “Imran Khan has not been able to start works on projects like Railway ML1 and Keti Bandar,” he said, adding: “During PML-N’s tenure, meetings of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor’s Joint Cooperation Committee (JCC) would occur every six months.” “However, it has met only two times since PTI came into power,” he added.