A look at Nawaz’s nine-point agenda

PML-N supremo believes his plan can tackle ongoing crises

Rizwan Shehzad   October 22, 2023
PML-N supremo Nawaz Sharif talks to reporters at Dubai airport shortly before boarding a flight to return to Pakistan. PHOTO: EXPRESS



Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) supremo Nawaz Sharif on Saturday gave a nine-point agenda which he believed could help the country tackle the ongoing crises and people from inflation, poverty, and unemployment while addressing a public gathering at Minar-i-Pakistan upon his return to Pakistan after four years.

In a speech dubbed as the formal beginning of the election campaign for the PML-N, the three-time former premier presented his economic and political agenda before the public while adopting a reconciliatory tone, emphasising the importance of economic stability and hinting at normalisation of relations with India, among other things.

Sharif, who returned from London to Lahore after he was granted temporary leave to travel abroad for medical reasons in 2019, refrained from directly naming his “usual suspects” – some former judges and general – but questioned their role in his ouster over, what he called “trumped-up charges”.

However, the much-awaited part of his speech was what he had to say about his future plan of action as the PML-N leadership said that he would be presenting his blue print at the Oct 21 rally.

In his speech, Nawaz said that reduction in government and administrative expenditures was among his priorities.
His second point focused on increasing income and revenues as well as bringing fundamental reforms in the taxation system – a task that has become a frequent part of the political leaders’ speeches but hasn’t yet been implemented.

Then, Nawaz said that it was time to take urgent and immediate measures to increase the country’s exports as strengthening exports was critical for strong sustainable economic growth.

Pakistan has long been struggling to grow its export base and stagnation in this area has remained a consistent cause of concern for the governments and the nation.

His fourth agenda was to bring a revolution in information technology sector as IT had become a key lever of economic development.

Nawaz, who even compared electricity bills of different people in his previous rule and that of the one by the PTI chairman, said that reducing energy (electricity and gas) prices was another area which he would be focusing on the in future.

Though privatising large state owned enterprises (SOEs) had always proved to be a very complex transaction but it was a cause for concern for the elderly Sharif and, perhaps, that was why he had listed the management of loss-making SOEs in his to-do list.

The World Bank recently rated that Pakistan’s SOEs were the worst in South Asia, saying that instead of bringing in money, Pakistani SOEs cost taxpayers over Rs458 billion to stay afloat and that the combined value of loans and guarantees associated with them was about 10% of GDP.

For context, that value was about 3.1% of GDP in 2016, meaning that not only were the companies failing to turn around their bottom lines, but they had become an even bigger drain on the taxpayer.

Creating employment opportunities for youth and women was another key agenda item for the PML-N supremo. A World Bank report had recently revealed that poverty in Pakistan shot up to 39.4 per cent as of last fiscal year with 12.5 million more people falling into the trap due to poor economic conditions.

“About 95 million Pakistanis now live in poverty,” it said.

Another long-promised item – a revolution in agriculture through modern technology – made into his agenda items. Despite being largely an agrarian country, Pakistan had not been able to meet the local needs related to the staple food item over the years.

Last but not the least, Nawaz promised reforms in the justice system.

Nawaz, who was ousted and disqualified in 2017 due to the infamous Panamagate scandal and still had to appear before the court coming Tuesday in corruption references, had long been promising reforms in the legal system but had not yet been successful.

In March 2018, Nawaz while sitting in an accountability court before the hearing of his corruption could begin had said that “the country’s judicial system requires reforms and the PML-N’s manifesto for the next general elections will include a complete system that will ensure swift and inexpensive justice for the public”.

The PML-N, however, had lost the elections back then, Nawaz was put in jail and continued the legal battle when PTI Chairman Imran Khan had become the prime minister of the country. Now, the tables had turned as Imran was in jail and Nawaz had returned to the country after a four-year sojourn in London.

On the previous occasion, he was arrested upon his arrival from the Lahore High Court but this time around, he obtained the court’s permission for the authorities concerned to not arrest him till Oct 24 before he landed in Islamabad.

Like in 2018, he touched down just ahead of the high-stakes general elections.

The polls were scheduled for January next year, setting the stage for a gripping political showdown.



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