IRSHAD ANSARI: Pakistan Tehreek e Insaf (PTI) has termed Punjab Assembly Opposition Leader Hamza Shahbaz’s outcry over the current economic situation in the country as a move to shift the attention of people and media from his money laundering case.
Addressing a news conference here on Thursday, Minister of State for Revenue Hammad Azhar said that Hamza Shahbaz would not be granted an NRO.
“Hamza Shahbaz sahab, no matter how much you cosy up to Maulana Fazlur Rehman sahab or to Asif Zardari, you will not get an NRO now. Everything stands exposed before the nation. So it would be better if you redirect your focus to the serious charges levelled in the case against you”.
Azhar was flanked by Minister for National Health Services Aamir Mehmood Kiyani and Parliamentary Secretary for Planning & Development Kanwal Shauzab.
Azhar said that time had come to tell the nation that the meetings of the opposition were not aimed at charter of democracy but were a charter of corruption and for that purpose they were getting closer.
“Looking at the media reports that are emerging which describe how the money was taken abroad and then brought back makes it abundantly clear that there is no discernible difference between the Omni Group case and the Hamza Shahbaz case.”
Responding to Hamza’s statement that people who commit money laundering usually flee from the country and never return back, Azhar said the Punjab Assembly opposition leader himself had disclosed the reality that former finance minister Ishaq Dar and Hassan and Hussain Nawaz were staying abroad to avoid facing cases in the country.
Referring to a recent book written by renowned economist Dr Hafiz Pasha, Azhar said it was admitted in the book that Ishaq Dar had fudged the economic figures to show rosy picture of country’s economy.
He attributed the current slowdown in economy, hike in inflation and rupee devaluation to the flawed economic policies of previous government, adding that despite exaggeration in economic figures, the economic growth remained at 4.5 per cent.
The state minister maintained that PTI government had helped bringing the country’s economy out of crisis but much was to be done.
He said due to the prudent policies of the incumbent government, the country’s current account deficit which had continued increasing during the last five years was now going down and in February it shrank by 72pc, whereas the trade deficit had also plunged by 37pc in March.
Azhar said the government was concerned about the hike in inflation but to bring the country’s economy out of default-like situation, it had to make adjustments in energy prices and devalue the currency.
“We are trying our best to keep this difficult period as short as possible and to move forward on the path of progress,” he said, adding that during next the five years, the country would grow rapidly with sustainable development.
The minister said that due to sharp decline in the country’s imports which gave 40pc of the total revenue, the collection in revenue remained low. However, he said that the collection was still three per cent higher as compared to the previous year.
“We have devalued the currency by 10.8pc. PML-N in the first eight months of their tenure had devalued it by 10.1pc and in the last seven months had devalued it by 17pc,” he said.
“So kindly refrain from concocting stories of devaluation and casting sand into people’s eyes,” the revenue minister said while addressing Hamza Shahbaz.
“When we came into power, the foreign exchange reserves with the State Bank of Pakistan were too low to be disbursed in the open market to keep the rupee value intact,” he remarked.
The minister also sought to set the record straight on the remarks issued by Minister for Water Resources Faisal Vawda regarding offshore oil drilling activity, which Vawda had claimed would change the fortunes of the country within a month.
“A ship is drilling at a distance of 250 kilometres off of Karachi’s coast. There is no doubt that if gas reserves are discovered there, experts are of the opinion that it will be included among the world’s top ten reserves,” he said
“He only expressed hope; his style is such that he expressed it very firmly. The statement must be understood in the context it was given,” Azhar clarified.