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Federal Cabinet Seeks Strategy to Curb Inflation

by Newsweek Pakistan

Information Minister Shibli Faraz. Courtesy PID

Information minister claims Islamabad had no role in filing ‘criminal conspiracy’ case against PMLN leaders

The federal cabinet has expressed concern over rampant inflation, and Prime Minister Imran Khan has directed authorities concerned to formulate a strategy to reduce prices of essential commodities, Information Minister Shibli Faraz said on Tuesday.

Addressing a press conference in Islamabad, he claimed that the cabinet was informed that there were sufficient wheat and sugar stocks in the country to meet demand. However, as a matter of routine, he blamed the Pakistan Peoples Party-led Sindh government for “not releasing wheat” and driving up prices in the province. He also claimed that prices had increased in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa due to floods that had damaged its output. He had no explanation for why the prices have skyrocketed in the rest of the country.

Local media reported that lawmakers had emphasized controlling inflation to prevent the united opposition from using it as an example of the incumbent government’s mismanagement. Faraz, however, claimed it was “to provide relief to the masses.”

In contrast to Faraz’s claims, lawmakers approved decisions of the Economic Coordination Committee to increase gas tariffs for commercial consumers, and pass on fuel adjustment charges to end-consumers of electricity—making utilities significantly more expensive.

The information minister said Planning Minister Asad Umar had briefed the cabinet on prevailing economic indicators, claiming they were “satisfactory.” He said the cabinet was also briefed on the performance of Pakistan International Airlines, whose loans and liabilities have exceeded Rs. 400 billion. He said that the state-run airline had earned Rs. 7.8 billion in revenue despite COVID-19.

Controversial FIR

“The government or the prime minister have nothing to do with it [sedition case] … We are not here to distribute certificates of treason,” said Faraz to a question on the controversial FIR filed against leaders of the Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz). “You know how many FIRs are registered in this country daily. Are all these FIRs registered on the orders and after approval of the prime minister?” he said, without factoring in that sedition cases cannot be legally filed without the express approval of the government.

Alleging that someone in the opposition might have filed the case—a patently false assertion considering the FIR parrots the government’s narrative against Nawaz Sharif and has been filed by someone who is an officer-bearer of the PTI’s Labor Wing—Faraz contradicted himself by saying the opposition was nonetheless “speaking the language of the country’s enemies.” He claimed these “enemies” wanted to make Pakistan like Libya, Iraq or Afghanistan.

“Punjab government will find out who did this [filed FIR] and investigate it. This has nothing to do with us [federal government],” he said.

The information minister claimed that Pakistan had a choice between Imran Khan and Nawaz Sharif, claiming the former could not be easily manipulated, as he had no assets in any foreign country. “When you have assets in another country then your foreign policy, even if in your national interest, would be affected due to conflict of interest,” he said.

Faraz reiterated the PTI’s claims that Khan has “nothing” outside of Pakistan, perhaps forgetting the prime minister’s two children who have not set foot inside the country since he assumed power.

The information minister also claimed that the government had no plans to ban the opposition’s planned anti-government protests, in a seeming contradiction of Interior Minister Ijaz Shah’s claims a day earlier that the government would prevent any rallies in the federal capital.

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