Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif on Thursday warned that Pakistan will face more “difficult times” in the coming months as the government works to ensure macroeconomic stability and steer the country out of a prevailing crisis.
Taking senators of the Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) into confidence on the government’s political and economic decisions, he admitted it was widely known that many within the party had believed that the incumbent government should’ve just instituted necessary reforms and proceeded directly to early elections. However, he said, all coalition partners had decided against this step and now the government planned to complete its constitutional term until August 2023.
“We faced many challenges when I took oath as the prime minister,” he said, as he criticized the ousted Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI)-led government for pushing the country to the brink of bankruptcy by implementing an unfunded fuel subsidy when it realized that the vote of no-confidence would succeed. He said that the former government had committed to increase levy on fuel prices in its deal with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), but had reneged on the agreement.
If the PTI had no intention of fulfilling the agreement, it should not have agreed to its terms, he stressed, adding that the IMF had not been ready to trust the commitments of the coalition government because of this. Noting that talks with the IMF were nearing conclusion and the stalled bailout would soon revive, he said it would also pave the way for the country to secure additional funding from other institutions like the World Bank, the Asian Development Bank as well as “friendly” nations.
He regretted that the PTI-led government had “never felt strongly about doing anything for widows and the poor,” adding that the former administration was facing scandals related to gas and wheat exports. “They gave billions in subsidies, emptied the coffers, and the cartels had a field day,” he alleged.
The prime minister also lamented that “billions and trillions of treasures” are buried in Reko Diq “but we could not dig them out.” He said this was the fault of the “leadership,” which had not dealt with the matter adequately.
Referring to the recently finalized $2.3 billion loan agreement with a Chinese consortium of banks, he said how long Pakistan could expect China to keep bailing the country out. “China and Saudi Arabia must be wondering when Pakistan will stand on its own feet,” he said.
Nevertheless, he stressed, there was little to be gained by “looking back and crying.” He said PMLN leader Nawaz Sharif had expressed his displeasure over having to raise prices of petroleum products, but stressed it was necessary as the “state comes before politics.” If the state survives, he said, the PMLN’s politics would as well.
The prime minister also said the government was aware of the impact of load-shedding and was taking measures to eradicate the outages. However, he stressed, it would take some time to fix the issue. He vowed that he would “never lie” to the nation as the PTI had during its tenure.