Information minister claims country will ‘plunge into turmoil’ if ruling PTI is voted out of power
The federal cabinet on Tuesday hailed the “upward trend” of Pakistan’s economy, dismissing the public’s mounting concerns over inflation and a loss of purchasing power as being restricted to a “small segment” of the population.
“There would not have been such progress if there was a price hike in the country,” Information Minister Chaudhry Fawad Hussain told journalists after a weekly meeting of the cabinet while referring to “record production” from the country’s auto industry and agriculture sector.
In what has become routine for the incumbent government, the minister derided concerns about inflation, claiming people would not be able to buy vehicles—essential items in a country with minimal public transport—or consume electricity—another essential item, especially in light of an ongoing gas shortage that has forced people to use more of the commodity despite monthly price hikes—if they were not prospering.
Summarizing the statistics of “economic success,” Fawad said the textile sector had grown by 30 percent, while information technology exports had increased by 47 percent thus far this year. He claimed they would double by the end of the ongoing fiscal year. He claimed that there had been a 31 percent into income tax payment, adding that farmers had earned Rs. 1,100 billion in additional income due to bumper crops and increase in per acre yield.
Over the past two years, claimed the minister, the number of car manufacturers in Pakistan had increased from five to 15. He said 240,000 vehicles were manufactured in the country annually, adding the goal was to boost this to 500,000/year. In this regard, he said, investments were being made in the car manufacturing sector, and banks had increased their capital in car financing from Rs. 240 billion to Rs. 338 billion. He said 111,435 cars were produced in the first five months of the current fiscal, showing a boost of 69 percent over last year when most industries were halted due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Fawad said 85 percent motorcycles being used in Pakistan were manufactured locally, adding that the sales of motorcycles, tractors, jeeps and cars had all witnessed “historic” increases.
According to the minister, electricity consumption had increased by 13 percent, and diesel consumption by 26 percent. “If the economy has gone down, then how can the demand of vehicles increase,” he said, reiterating that the country was “prospering.” He said the construction, agriculture and textiles sectors were experiencing historic improvement, adding that foreign exchange reserves had increased from $20.3 billion to $ 25.2 billion and export volume had increased by 29 percent over the previous year.
Elections and EVMs
Fawad reiterated that the federal cabinet had formed a two-member ministerial committee to address the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP)’s reservations over the use of electronic voting machines (EVM) in the next general elections. “The cabinet has tasked Science and Technology Minister Shibli Faraz and Information Technology Minister Syed Aminul Haque to meet the chief election commissioner on Wednesday (today) to assure him of all-out assistance from the government in holding local government elections in Islamabad through EVMs,” he said and reiterated calls for the ECP to issue tenders for the purchase of EVMs ahead of the next general elections.
The cabinet also granted approval to amendments to Section 122 of the Election Act, 2017, which would allow votes in Senate elections to be ‘traceable.’ The government claims this would address the issue of “horse trading” in the polls for the Upper House of Parliament.
Referring to the PTI’s poor showing in the local body elections of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, the information minister described the majority secured by the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (Fazl) as “unfortunate” and said he was “dismayed” at its victory. “It was our mistakes that led to their victory,” he said. “The country will plunge deeper into turmoil in the absence of PTI and if parties like Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) and JUI-F come into power,” he added.
Also on Tuesday, the cabinet approved $3.98 billion ex-post facto loans obtained from December 2020 to November 2021. Fawad said the government was borrowing loans on long-term basis to reduce the external debt burden. He said the cabinet had appointed Jawadullah from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa as a member of the National Commission on the Rights on Child. It also approved the appointment of Shamshad Akhtar as official member at Port Qasim Authority in place of Vice Admiral Zahid Ilyas.