Wednesday, August 4, 2021

PAKISTAN: POLITICAL & ECONOMIC CRISIS LOOMS LARGE

Script: KAUSHIK ROY, AIR: News Analyst
Pakistan’s cricketer-turned-Prime Minister Imran Khan came to power in August 2018 promising to build a “Naya Pakistan”. However, into more than half of his term, he is all at sea. The ‘selected’ Prime Minister, as he has been dubbed by many in the country has not been able to provide basic services to the common people. Inflation is at its highest ever in Pakistan. The cost of essential food items has gone through the roof. Despite this, the Pakistan Prime Minister has been busy politicking.
Only last week, Khan managed to pass the floor test in the Pakistan National Assembly after the joint opposition (members of Pakistan Democratic Movement) walked out. The Khan government had to seek the trust vote, as the country’s Finance Minister Abdul Hafiz Shaikh lost the Senate election to former Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani of the Pakistan People’s Party. The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf government is in minority in the Senate (Upper House).
Imran Khan has been criticised for his inept handling of the country’s economy. During the first few months after coming to power, he got loans from Pakistan’s traditional allies Saudi Arabia, UAE and China. However, things began getting tough after Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureishi’s unsavoury remarks against Saudi. At one point, it was appearing that Pakistan along with Turkey and Malaysia were trying to challenge Saudi Arabia’s position in the Islamic Ummah. Since then, ties between Riyadh and Islamabad have become rather cold. Pakistan, in fact, Pakistan had to repay a soft loan of US$ 1.2 billion to Riyadh last year in the midst of the Covid19 pandemic. The Pakistan government had managed to get a bailout package from IMF but the conditions imposed by the international agency were very harsh. This led to rise in prices of energy, food etc. in the country.
The economic crisis has led to the coming together of various opposition parties in Pakistan, calling for the ouster of the Imran Khan government. The Pakistan Prime Minister has accused the opposition of trying to topple him, even as he is busy providing succour to the people during the pandemic. In fact, the poor in Pakistan have accused the Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) cadres of looting the relief material and selling them in the market. This was widespread in many provinces and had to be stopped at a few places.
The Pak Army had to come in to save the situation. The order was restored in relief distribution centres and supply of essential commodities could be made to the people. However, the Pakistan government was flummoxed by the rising number of people seeking free rations and its’ dwindling coffers. But, in a theocratic Pakistan, religious discrimination remained on top amidst the crisis. The country’s religious minorities were discriminated upon for food supplies by the authorities.
Many religious minorities lamented they received no help them during the national lockdown and that ration was not provided to them. Post lockdown, the jobless among the minorities has risen sharply.
Now, after coming under intense criticism, Imran Khan has tried to replicate Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s free food scheme. The Indian Prime Minister had started the world’s largest free food scheme for 800 million people during India’s lockdown and the scheme was continued till November 2020. Under the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Ann Yojana, poor people were provided 5 kg free wheat/rice per month along with 1 kg free whole chana to each family per month. Indian Women who held Jan Dhan Accounts in banks, were given a Direct Cash Transfer of Rs.500 per month.
Prime Minister Imran Khan has said that his “Koi bhuka na soye” (No one sleeps hungry) scheme is expected to help 40 million Pakistanis. However, this scheme was launched only in the twin-cities of Rawalpindi-Islamabad. Under this scheme, mobile vans with cooked and packed food would visit localities to distribute food among the needy. Imran Khan said the programme is “the beginning of Pakistan’s transformation into a welfare state”. For someone, who promised to turn Pakistan into “Riyasat-e-Madina” (welfare state of Madina), this is indeed eating humble pie!
It is hoped that the poor people in Pakistan get some respite from the ugly politicking, economic crisis and high inflation. Governance is all about action and Mr. Imran Khan who has played the gentleman’s game should
 Pakistan’s cricketer-turned-Prime Minister Imran Khan came to power in August 2018 promising to build a “Naya Pakistan”. However, into more than half of his term, he is all at sea. The ‘selected’ Prime Minister, as he has been dubbed by many in the country has not been able to provide basic services to the common people. Inflation is at its highest ever in Pakistan. The cost of essential food items has gone through the roof. Despite this, the Pakistan Prime Minister has been busy politicking.
Only last week, Khan managed to pass the floor test in the Pakistan National Assembly after the joint opposition (members of the Pakistan Democratic Movement) walked out. The Khan government had to seek the trust vote, as the country’s Finance Minister Abdul Hafiz Shaikh lost the Senate election to former Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani of the Pakistan People’s Party. The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf government is in minority in the Senate (Upper House).
Imran Khan has been criticised for his inept handling of the country’s economy. During the first few months after coming to power, he got loans from Pakistan’s traditional allies Saudi Arabia, UAE and China. However, things began getting tough after Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureishi’s unsavoury remarks against Saudi. At one point, it was appearing that Pakistan along with Turkey and Malaysia were trying to challenge Saudi Arabia’s position in the Islamic Ummah. Since then, ties between Riyadh and Islamabad have become rather cold. Pakistan, in fact, Pakistan had to repay a soft loan of US$ 1.2 billion to Riyadh last year in the midst of the Covid19 pandemic. The Pakistan government had managed to get a bailout package from IMF but the conditions imposed by the international agency were very harsh. This led to rise in prices of energy, food etc. in the country.
The economic crisis has led to the coming together of various opposition parties in Pakistan, calling for the ouster of Imran Khan Government. The Pakistan Prime Minister has accused the opposition of trying to topple him, even as he is busy providing succour to the people during the pandemic. In fact, the poor in Pakistan have accused the Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) cadres of looting the relief material and selling them in the market. This was widespread in many provinces and had to be stopped at a few places.
The Pak Army had to come in to save the situation. The order was restored in relief distribution centres and supply of essential commodities could be made to the people. However, the Pakistan government was flummoxed by the rising number of people seeking free rations and its’ dwindling coffers. But, in a theocratic Pakistan, religious discrimination remained on top amidst the crisis. The country’s religious minorities were discriminated upon for food supplies by the authorities.
Many religious minorities lamented they received no help during the national lockdown and that ration was not provided to them. Post lockdown, the jobless among the minorities has risen sharply.
Now, after coming under intense criticism, Imran Khan has tried to replicate Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s free food scheme. The Indian Prime Minister had started the world’s largest free food scheme for 800 million people during India’s lockdown and the scheme was continued till November 2020. Under the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Ann Yojana, poor people were provided 5 kg free wheat/rice per month along with 1 kg free whole chana to each family per month. Indian Women who held Jan Dhan Accounts in banks were given Direct Cash Transfer of Rs.500 per month.
Prime Minister Imran Khan has said that his “Koi bhuka na soye” (No one sleeps hungry) scheme is expected to help 40 million Pakistanis. However, this scheme was launched only in the twin-cities of Rawalpindi-Islamabad. Under this scheme, mobile vans with cooked and packed food would visit localities to distribute food among the needy. Imran Khan said the programme is “the beginning of Pakistan’s transformation into a welfare state”. For someone, who promised to turn Pakistan into “Riyasat-e-Madina” (welfare state of Madina), this is indeed eating humble pie!
It is hoped that the poor people in Pakistan get some respite from the ugly politicking, economic crisis and high inflation. Governance is all about action and Mr. Imran Khan who has played the gentleman’s game should know.

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