ISLAMABAD: Days after Punjab Health Minister Dr Yasmin Rashid called the people of Lahore “jahil” (ignorant/illiterate) for not adhering to the SOPs, causing a spike in Covid-19 cases, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) leader Andleeb Abbas on Monday used the same word for the entire nation on the floor of the National Assembly.
In fact, Andleeb went ahead and used another word for the entire nation, beemar (sick).
“They [opposition] wanted to leave behind a jahil and beemar nation while their children, daughters-in-law and parents go abroad,” Andleeb said, citing that the literacy rate dropped to 58% from 60% in 2017 when the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) was in power.
“They have destroyed health, education and human development,” she said, claiming that the PTI-led government allocated the highest budget for education.
Andleeb said that Pakistan’s health ranking was the lowest during the PML-N’s tenure and its health system was compared with countries like Congo because a mother was dying every 20 minutes and a child every minute.
“Development without human development is inhuman development,” she said, adding that the mortality rate during labour was the highest during “PML-N’s Pakistan”.
“The PTI government has allocated a budget for five mother and child hospitals for the first time in the last 72 years.”
Andleeb surprised the parliamentarians when she said, “The economy is stable despite Covid-19.”
She added that the PTI government reduced the trade deficit from Rs17 billion to Rs3 billion. On FBR, she said, the government added 2.5 million tax payers and increased revenue by 17%. “People have started trusting us,” she said.
PPP leader and former foreign minister Hina Rabbani Khar responded to Andleeb’s comments about the nation, saying: “Stop calling this nation jahil.”
“First,” the PPP leader said, “You spread Jahalat [ignorance] by saying its [Covid-19] just a flu; it will go away; no need to wear masks; it won’t come or won’t survive the heat in Pakistan.”
Khar added, “You are the ones spreading Jahalat.
“Is it a criterion for becoming a member of PTI that one should forget everything about mathematics, history, and geography?” Khar questioned.
On Andleeb’s claim that the PML-N ruled the country for 35 years, Khar said that including the quasi-democratic governments since 1985, the total number of years reaches to roughly 26 while the number reaches to 19 years excluding the quasi-democratic governments.
“At least, just get the facts right,” Khar said, adding that she takes the floor of the house extremely serious because when the parliamentarians take the floor for granted and give misstatements, they damage the credibility of every member of the house. “This is ridiculous,” she said.
On the budget, Khar said that the opinion of the international lending institutions is that all targets were not met. Normally, Khar said, targets are missed by 0.5 or 0.3% but the government has missed the targets by 50%. “It was an unrealistic budget then and it continues to be an unrealistic budget,” she said.
“I’m 42 today. I have never been this disappointed and pessimistic about the future of this country,” Khar said.
She said that the whole focus of the PTI is on re-polishing and representing things on social media just to fool the people and keep telling them that “Imran Khan is so handsome; he is so good; he is so popular; he won us the 1992 World Cup; yes he did”.
“He was a great cricketer,” she said. “We all believe that but honestly speaking his two-year record as the prime minister really doesn’t give this country much to celebrate about.”Khar said that they take away hope when they do petty politics while sitting on the treasury benches.
She explained how the PPP government was giving hope to the people of Pakistan.
“PPP laid the foundation of the social safety net by introducing BISP, which has now been repackaged as Ehsaas programme. Then comes the 18th Amendment to the Constitution which your prime minister merrily said is the worst thing that happened to this country.”
Correcting a historical wrong, she said, the PPP initiated the Agaz-e-Huqooq-e-Pakistan. “What are you doing; you are increasing the historical wrongs.”
One thing shows how this government creates problems and tries to fool the people and that happened only three days ago: India became a member a non-permanent member of the UNSC by securing 184 votes out of the total 192 votes.
“Your foreign minister instead of saying that we call upon the world as it happens; Pakistan also chose to vote for them,” Khar alleged. “Are the circumstances not different; they have re-annexed Kashmir for heaven’s sake.”
Khar said that Modi, for whom PTI would pray that Kashmir issue would be resolved if he becomes PM, has re-annexed Kashmir, deprived people of even the quasi-normal life and “you are still voting for India”.
Then, she said, the foreign minister claimed that India is isolated on the world stage despite the fact that it took 184 votes out of the total 192. “Maybe, the meaning of the word ‘isolated’ has been redefined in the dictionary,” Khar said, adding that the minister should have called out the world and said that “Pakistan is disappointed in the world community for voting for a country which has gone against every principal of human rights”.
“This is how you lose credibility Mr Speaker because reality is something else and you are trying to create a fictitious world and sell it to people as if they are fools,” Khar continued. “You are questioning their intellect; you are questioning their wisdom and you continue to call them Jahil when you are the ones who brought back the Jahalat period in Pakistan.”
Meanwhile, PML-N’s Barjees Tahir drew the house’s attention towards the difference between revenue and total expenditures for the fiscal year, asking how will the government meet its expenses and fill the gap.
In the past, Tahir said, the members of the treasury benches would say that the people do not give taxes to the corrupt but they themselves couldn’t achieve their revenue target last year. The PTI-led government would call the opposition parties corrupt; tell that they would collect taxes in abundance and “exploited people just to come to power”.
“We pray that they may complete their five years. Haven’t you seen the opposition; it doesn’t take interest in moving a no-confidence motion. Why should we do so; they should get time,” Tahir said. He subsequently drew the speaker’s attention towards the empty chair of the prime minister, saying: “Have we seen him in his chair; we are seeing his interest and you are also watching what he is delivering right now.”
On the massive increase in gas and electricity bills, Tahir said that the government’s promise of returning the excessive charges to the people was not fulfilled. “Circular debt was Rs1,100 billion. With their hard work, it has now ballooned to Rs2,000 billion,” he said.
He said that the government claims that the budget was tax-free, adding that it has increased 73% levy on petrol alone. “One litre costs Rs32 and they charge Rs75 for it, which is Rs43 more than the total production cost. This way, they have gulped Rs200 billion.”
On his suggestion that the Dimar-Bhasha dam should be built on a war footing, NA Speaker Asad Qaiser appreciated and endorsed the suggestion.
PTI’s Zain Hussain Qureshi said he has yet to receive any recommendation from the opposition benches since the general debate started.
PPP’s Abdul Qadir Patel told the house, especially Andleeb, that the highest child mortality rate was in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, adding that it was higher than in Thar, Sindh.
To the government’s continuous stance that the previous governments destroyed everything in Pakistan, Patel listed down the things that have damaged Pakistan: “Afghan war, Ziaul Haq, Bhutto’s hanging, non-party elections, dismissal of PPP government by Leghari, Musharraf’s coup, 1992’s World Cup and election 2018.”
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