'Provide relief to the poor or get ready for reaction,' PPP Chairman warns PTI Government

PPP Chairperson Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari urged the federal government to “provide relief to the poor” and instead go hard on the rich if it has to, in order to “create fiscal space”.

The PPP chairperson, who was holding a press conference at Zardari House in Islamabad, criticised the government’s performance on the economic front, alleging that it is favouring the rich and burdening the poor.

“No one in the history of Pakistan took as much debt as they have taken in just several months of their government. They celebrate upon securing loans. What is there to celebrate when the poor and the common man will have to bear the burden of paying off these loans?” Bilawal asked.

“The way they are running the economy, there will be a reaction from the poor spectrum of the society. If you want to create fiscal space and burden someone then burden the rich like Jahangir Tareen. For the rich you have an amnesty scheme but for the poor you have inflation.

“Ramazan is coming, where is your Ramazan package? I demand that the government review its economic policy, and provide relief to the poor wherever possible.”

Bilawal advised to government to take inspiration from the PPP’s management of the economy during turbulent times.

“Look at what the PPP did during its government,” he said. “Despite global recession, terrorism at its peak, two floods and an environment of war, the PPP fought and gave more jobs than anyone else (6.8million), increased salaries by 150 per cent … and did whatever was possible for the poor. You can do the same.”

The PPP leader said that the impending bailout package of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) must be passed through the parliament. “We don’t even know about the IMF programme,” he said. “The public will not agree if you go stealthily and sign the IMF deal. This would be illegal. You will have to bring the IMF deal to the parliament and get it passed from the National Assembly, otherwise we and the public won’t accept it.”

Bilawal criticised PM’s Adviser on Finance Abdul Hafeez Shaikh for not addressing the parliament. “Forget that, he has not even faced the camera to shed light on the state of the economy and the stabilisation measures he has in store,” he said.

He branded the government’s accountability drive as “hypocritical”, saying that “NAB and democracy can’t go hand in hand”.

“There was a prime minister Junejo who said that martial law and democracy can’t go together. In the same way, NAB’s black law and our democracy can’t be run simultaneously.

“You cannot have a double policy for benami accounts. Jahangir Tareen’s benami accounts are clean but the [other] mill owners are thieves if they do the same. Those who use hawala to move their funds, by branding them thieves and thugs their businesses would cease functioning.”

Bilawal said that “you can send my entire party to jail but we will not change our principled stance on the 18th Amendment, presidential form of government, military courts, freedom of the press and democracy.”

‘Political statements should not be made through DG ISPR’

The PPP chairperson’s press conference came hours after Director General of Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) Maj Gen Asif Ghafoor indicated of possible action against the Pashtun Tahafuz Movement (PTM).

Bilawal was reminded of the DG ISPR’s reported comment that “a political party is supportive of the PTM’s activities”.

To this, he “clarified that the only party the PPP supports is the PPP. I am the chairman of the PPP so I do not support any other party. Of course, if another political party raises an issue of democracy, human rights … then I support those points but from a [political standpoint[, the only party I support is the PPP.”

The PPP leader, however, said that political statements should only be made by the relevant ministries and not through the military.

“Khan sahab should not give out political statements through the DG ISPR,” he said. “This will only make the institution controversial. The defence ministry’s narrative can be given by the DG ISPR but when a political statement comes out then institutions become controversial, which is something we would never want.”