–PPP chairman says spy agencies are not supposed to probe fallout from govt’s economic policies
LAHORE: Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari on Friday questioned the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government’s decision to involve the country’s intelligence agencies in the crackdown against smuggling of food items and other goods.
Addressing reporters here, the PPP chairman said: “Are they [intelligence agencies] supposed to fight terrorism, or are they supposed to investigate the fallout from the current government’s economic policies?”
On Tuesday, Prime Minister Imran Khan had directed the Intelligence Bureau (IB), the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) to present monitoring reports on the crackdown against smuggling on a regular basis during a meeting in Islamabad.
In his press conference, Bilawal maintained: “There are people in the country who are not paying taxes, but that doesn’t mean that all of them are robbers, are involved in unscrupulous activities or are corrupt. You need to reform the tax system.
“But they [the government] decided to use the National Accountability Bureau (NAB), the FIA, and the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) to document the economy by force,” he said.
“The point of an economy is to invest in the people in order to promote economic activities. But this government is squeezing the life out of the economy.
“Whenever the PPP is in charge, the first thing we do is increase salaries and pensions to empower the lowest segment of society because this money eventually cycles back into the economy. All the policies of the PTI government, including the tax amnesty scheme, only benefit the rich,” he said.
The PPP chairman also criticised the PTI government’s deal with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), stating: “What kind of a deal is this where the IMF representative came to Pakistan, spoke to the head of the State Bank who was also associated with the Fund in the past, and decided the economic rights of the people?
“The people of Pakistan should be making these decisions. But this is only possible if government representatives have been elected by the people,” he said.
He said that the PPP had warned the government from the very first day regarding their deal with the IMF.
“When you negotiate with such an institution, you do not comply with each and every point they put forward; you speak in favor of your country and of the people.
“The PTI government’s interactions with the IMF have lacked seriousness; they did not have a plan. For a year they went back and forth on whether to approach the IMF or not. When they finally made a decision, instead of representing the country and its people, they complied with every single point.
“They were not considering the lives of the common man, they do not understand how Pakistan’s economy works. They gave incorrect tax collection targets to the IMF as they are not aware of the country’s capacity.
“Even after they revised their targets, they were unable to meet their goal, the burden of which inevitably fell on the people,” he concluded.