–Firdous says govt has undertaken reforms to strengthen institutions, support vulnerable sections of society
–Says Kashmir is govt’s top priority, urges all stakeholders to put aside political differences over issue
–Says PTI believes in freedom of expression, welcomes ‘positive criticism’ from media
ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government on Sunday marked the completion of its first year into power amid growing uncertainty at the economic front, with the stock market crashing and rupee being routed against the US dollar.
The ruling PTI was voted to power in the July 2018 elections on its campaign to build a corruption-free Islamic welfare state, better employment and civic amenities. But for many, things have even gone from bad to worse during the first year of Prime Minister Imran’s government.
Despite all this, the Pakistani rupee has since been routed against the United States dollar by 30pc with inflation hitting double digits and likely to rise another few percentage points in months to come, according to the country’s state bank.
Contrary to his election promises, electricity, gas, and petroleum prices now soar, with several hikes attempting to reduce the country’s chronic balance of payments.
In addition to that, the government has borrowed a record $16.2 billion in loans from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, China and Qatar to prop up its fast depreciating foreign reserves and ballooning balance of payments crisis.
‘REFORMS AND PRO-POOR POLICIES’
However, the government’s spokesperson, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Information and Broadcasting Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan, said the government took “far-reaching” steps to reforms institutions, made institutions profitable, improve performance of ministries, and took far-reaching steps to financially help vulnerable sections of the society.
Speaking at a special ceremony to launch the one-year performance report of the government, she said that the Ministry of Housing took steps to provide low-cost housing to the people while the visa regime was relaxed for 175 countries to promote tourism in Pakistan.
She said that the government initiated the Ehsaas Programme to provide financial support to low-income segments of the society.
The Ministry of Energy, she said, considerably reduced the circular debt. The Pakistan Post and the National Highway Authority (NHA) were made profitable, she added. Firdous said that in the ‘new Pakistan’, contrary to past practice, interests of the public were protected and not of the rulers.
The Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) undertook reforms to increase revenue and broaden the tax base, she mentioned. She said that the government worked with dedication and sincerity, and put Pakistan on the right track with its policies.
The special assistant said that Prime Minister Imran Khan himself was closely monitoring the reforms programme. On his instructions, reforms were introduced in every ministry and department, and the one year journey of the government was for stability of Pakistan, she added.
Imran Khan as a soldier of the Quaid-e-Azam, she said, was striving to protect the interests of people and transform Pakistan into a welfare state on the model of Riasat-e-Madina where rule of law, equality, opportunities for all, merit and a corruption-free environment would prevail.
She assured that the next year would be for the country’s development.
Firdous said that the whole occupied Kashmir is locked down by India and there is a severe shortage of food, medicines and milk for children. India is suppressing the voice of Kashmiris by unleashing state terrorism in the held valley, she added.
“We dedicate this day to the oppressed people of Kashmir,” she said.
The PM’s assistant said Pakistan was incomplete without Kashmir and it was the top priority of the government as it reflects sentiments and feelings of the people. “PM Imran is making efforts for the freedom of people of Kashmir and the way the present government highlighted the Kashmir issue globally was unprecedented,” she noted.
She said that the government was fully focused on Kashmir putting aside all other political considerations.
“In the interest of the greater cause of Kashmir, we have put aside our political engagements and decided to take the national narrative forward,” she said.
She also said that the premier’s address to the nation that was scheduled for today had been postponed as the government’s “full-time focus” was on Kashmir.
The special assistant said that the government believed in complete freedom of media, which was the ears and eyes of the people who came to know about the state agenda through it.
The government had always welcomed positive criticism from the media and protected its rights, she added.
She said that the government would continue to inform the public about its steps for reforms and their welfare through the media.
She said that steps were taken to make Associated Press of Pakistan (APP) a credible and financially viable institution. Radio Pakistan would also be made a vibrant organisation, she added.