The government on Friday stuck to its guns that it managed to revive the economy with a growth rate expected to touch 5.37 percent, but the opposition contended the economy is in shambles as there is no truth in its claim of economic growth.
Speaking in the National Assembly, Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said that despite, challenges confronting the country due to the coronavirus pandemic, the government managed to revive the economy with a growth rate expected to touch 5.37 percent.
He said that the government took tough decisions to revive the economy, and after two years the economy is in the recovery phase. He said he was citing this from the “unbiased” reports of the World Bank, Bloomberg, and The Economist.
According to Qureshi, the agri-sector that was stagnant during the previous governments recorded a 3.3 percent growth due to the measures taken by the government. He added that the large-scale manufacturing (LSM) sector also witnessed growth during the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI)’s rule.
Comparing the economic development to that achieved during the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) government, he said the PML-N’s economic growth at its zenith was five percent, whereas, the PTI, despite all the obstructions, managed to surpass that.
Qureshi also talked about the alleged audio clip of ex-chief justice Saqib Nisar and an affidavit of the former top judge of Gilgit, terming them an attempt to influence the judiciary for favourable decisions.
“This trend is dangerous, we should all take notice of it and put an end to it,” the minister added.
The remarks made by the foreign minister irked the opposition members.
Agha Rafiullah of the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) was also admonished for speaking out of turn by the NA speaker. He was told to behave himself after he passed derogatory remarks against the foreign minister.
Responding to FM Qureshi, the PML-N leader, Ahsan Iqbal, said the foreign minister’s remarks were not taken into consideration by the PML-N as they were non-serious utterances, adding the way the foreign minister spoke, shows as if he is projecting himself as the alternative to Prime Minister Imran if he is shown the door.
“It would not be wrong if I may say that he tried to give an interview in case of any candidacy for the top slot of prime minister,” he said in a veiled reference to Qureshi’s “ambition” to become the prime minister by hook or by crook.
“When the foreign minister was with us [the PML-N], he would sing our praises,” he said, adding that the minister also used to praise former president Asif Ali Zardari.
With the foreign minister’s speech, he said, it seemed as if Shahzad Akbar, Shehbaz Gill, Shaukat Tarin, and all other ministers, are speaking, adding this shows how desperate is he to be the “replacement” of Prime Minister Imran Khan.
Speaking about the rumours of a presidential system in the country, he said he never understood who always stirred the debate in Pakistan. “If we are not sure about the governance system to run the country despite, passage of 75 years, we don’t need an enemy to hurt us,” he regretted.
He continued that Quaid-i-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah appointed Liaquat Ali Khan as the first prime minister, and enforced the parliamentary system in the country.
“The 1956 Constitution introduced the federal system as the presidential system broke up Pakistan…the presidential system of government – not once but thrice – failed,” he added.
The PML-N leader said FM Qureshi actually had to tell the House about the students who are stranded in Pakistan and want to go back to China for their studies — and the foreign minister did not answer.
He also challenged the government for a debate on a television talk show to prove their economic figures wrong, but Energy Minister Hammad Azhar, said: “Why TV talk show, I am ready to face you here on the floor of the house”.
Responding to the opposition, Azhar said that the PTI government has steered the country out of a difficult economic situation. He said the previous government left behind a bankrupt economy.
He said our growth rate of about 5.4 percent is based on enhanced exports and revenue collection, increase in foreign exchange reserves and reduction in the current account deficit.
He said the world institutions are appreciating the economic outlook of Pakistan. Interestingly, during the speech by Ahsan Iqbal, the treasury members raised quorum issue, but the NA speaker did not pay any heed to them.
Responding to a calling attention notice, Azhar expressed satisfaction that the Sui Northern Gas Pipelines Limited has significantly reduced its system losses from 12.5 percent to 8.5 percent over the last three years.
He said there is a need to bring further improvement to the SSGC. He pointed out that the country’s gas reserves are depleting at the rate of nine per cent annually. The minister also introduced before the house the Private Power and Infrastructure Board Amendment Bill, 2022.
The house also passed two resolutions extending the Diplomatic and Consular Officers (Oath and Fees) Amendment Ordinance, 2021 and National Rehmatul Lil Alameen Authority Ordinance, 2021 for a further period of 120 days.
The Statement of Contingent Liabilities of the federal government for the current fiscal year was laid before the house. The annual reports of the Council of Islamic Ideology (CII) for the period from 2012-18 and the report on Islamic Law of Inheritance were also laid before the house.
The National Assembly adopted a motion allowing the use of its hall for the 48th session of the OIC Council of Foreign Ministers to be held in March. The motion was moved by Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi. The house also offered Fateha for those martyred in Thursday’s bomb blast in Lahore. The house was prorogued sine die.
This report was first published in Business Recorder on Jan 22, 2022.