Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif said on Friday if the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) government had received 30% of the support given to former prime minister Imran Khan by the establishment, the country would have progressed very swiftly.
Talking to the media after meeting with a delegation of traders and industrialists during his daylong visit, Shehbaz said he did not have a “magic wand” to fix all the problems of the country overnight but showed his optimism that the government measures would be effective.
Shehbaz met the businessmen of Karachi and spoke to the media after launching the third ship under the framework of Turkey’s National Ship Project (MİLGEM). He also met Turkish defence minister Hulusi Akar and invited Turkey to join the Pak-China Economic Corridor (CPEC).
The prime minister said that in August 2018, when the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) government completed its tenure, the dollar was worth Rs115 and the Pakistani currency depreciated to Rs189 to a dollar in the last three and a half years.
“When I took the oath, it (dollar) was at Rs189. This Rs60-65 plunge was not our fault,” Shahbaz said. “During our [party’s] tenure, modern power projects were started and load shedding was ended but then why it started during the PTI’s [Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf] tenure,” he asked.
“If any of our previous government got 30% of the support that this “blue-eyed boy” received, Pakistan would have made unprecedented progress,” he continued. “Imran cut petrol prices after sensing the success of the no-confidence motion despite a huge debt burden facing the country.”
Earlier, addressing the businessmen, the prime minister said that that the ban on the import of luxury and non-essential items would not only save $4 billion but also support the local industry, besides addressing the social imbalance.
“The objective of banning (import of luxury item) – for a specific time – is to save foreign exchange and bring stability,” the prime minister said. “If we save $4 billion, this could meet our whole edible oil needs… This is like earning $4 billion,” he added.
Shehbaz said the poor people living in Gilgit-Baltistan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa or Balochistan were struggling to put food on the table, buy clothes to wear and medicine for the sick and they felt neglected when they saw the elite enjoying the imported luxury goods.
“The ban on the import of such items will address this social imbalance. The import ban will also support the local industry,” the prime minister continued. “There is also a need for capping the prices of these items under a certain formula.”
The PTI government neither provided relief to the common man, nor executed any agriculture or public welfare project with serious intentions, he said and invited suggestions from the business community for solutions to the prevailing economic situation.
If the nation got united and made a resolve, he said, it could change the fate of the country. In this regard, he cited the revival of war-hit Germany and Japan and unprecedented development by China. “Why can’t we do it? Are we fated to live like a beggar? This is out of the question.”
He told the businessmen that Pakistan, being a nuclear power, was capable to foil any ill-intention against it. He warned that Pakistan would crush India if the neighbour showed any ill-intentions. “We can beat India,” he said, adding at the same time, “we can’t compete with it” in other areas.
The country lagged behind India in the field of information technology (IT) which had risen to a $200 billion export market, he said. He asked the ministries concerned to increase the IT exports by empowering the youth.
Speaking about the issues of Karachi, the prime minister stressed that an investment of $1 billion from Saudi Arabia was ready, which could be used to address the problem of water supply by installing a desalination plant.
Referring to his meeting with a Chinese delegation on Thursday, Shehbaz said that they had expressed keen interest in the Karachi Circular Railway (KCR) project. He also asked the business community to suggest a mechanism for the gas supply to the industries without compromising the domestic supplies.
He said currently, Pakistan’s oil import bill stood at $20 billion, which could only be reduced by promoting green energy. Stressing the need for a compulsory solar geyser policy for every household, he announced the abolition of the 17% duty on solar panels.
The prime minister also expressed his optimism about the renewal of the Generalised System of Preference (GSP)-Plus status despite the fact that the previous government had “criticised the European Union [EU] to serve the personal interests.
PNS Badar launched
Earlier, attended the launching ceremony of the PNS Badar at Karachi Shipyard and Engineering Works (KS&EW). The PNS Badar is the third corvette under the framework of the Turkey’s National Ship Project (MİLGEM). Addressing the ceremony, Shehbaz appreciated the Pakistan-Turkey strategic cooperation.
He directed the authorities concerned to take full advantage of Turkey’s expertise and experience in every possible way. He thanked the Turkish government and the people for their unwavering support to Pakistani on the Kashmir issue on all international forums.
Terming Turkey and Pakistan ‘one nation living in two countries’, Shehbaz said that CPEC was set to translate regional connectivity he said he was confident that a trilateral arrangement with the inclusion of Turkey could prove beneficial for the people in the region.
On the occasion, the message of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was also screened. In his message, Erdogan assured Pakistan that Turkey would provide all support needed to strengthen Pakistan’s military infrastructure.
He said that Pakistan was the country with the most strategic location in South Asia. “Throughout history, this region has been the apple of the world’s eye with its ancient culture and wealth. Pakistan and its people have a special place for us,” he said.
President Erdogan stressed the need for of providing all means of support to strengthen the military infrastructure of Pakistan whose security, stability and prosperity, he added, “we consider as important as Turkey’s”.
Earlier, Turkish Defence Minister Hulusi Akar held delegation-level talks with the prime minister. On the occasion, Shehbaz appreciated the deep-rooted strategic cooperation between the two brotherly countries in all fields including shipbuilding, engineering, solid waste management and transport.
(WITH INPUT FROM APP)