- Information Minister says Pakistan faces an emergency situation that requires extraordinary decisions
Minister for Information and Broadcasting Marriyum Aurangzeb announced on Thursday that the government had imposed a ban on the import of all non-essential luxury items in an effort to take the country out of the existing financial crisis, Aaj News reported.
Addressing a press conference in Islamabad, the minister said that the "initiative will benefit local industries and investors."
She said that the country was facing an "emergency situation," adding that Pakistanis would have to make sacrifices under the new economic plan.
"Government's first priority is to reduce dependency on import and introduce export-oriented economic policy," she said.
Marriyum noted that the impact of these measures would be around $6 billion.
The minister stressed that the decision would have an impact on the country's current account deficit as well.
Under the new policy, the import of all luxury vehicles has been banned. Moreover, a ban has also been imposed on the import of mobile phones, dried fruits, private weapons, crockery, shoes, carpets, tissue paper, furniture, make-up, sunglasses, cigarettes, musical instruments, chocolates, heaters, and other items.
The minister justified the move by saying that extraordinary decisions had to be made as the country faces extraordinary circumstances.
Blaming the outgoing government for the current economic crisis, she said that Imran Khan's government destroyed the economy.
"He promised an unfunded [fuel] subsidy and played with the economy. He tried to trap the incoming government," she claimed, adding that PTI's government was oblivious of the scale of the country's economic woes.
Commenting on the subject of the next elections, she said that the coalition government will decide on the issue, adding that "the timeline of the next elections will only be decided by those who know how to give relief to the people."
"It is our decision when to hold elections. If you [Imran Khan] intended to hold elections, you would have done so before the no-trust motion was submitted."
Marriyum emphasized that the current government had the capacity and experience to fix the current economic crisis.
"The steps taken today are aimed at stabilising the economy," she concluded.
After Marriyum's announcement, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif took to Twitter to defend his government's decision.
"My decision to ban import of luxury items will save the country precious foreign exchange. We will practice austerity & financially stronger people must lead in this effort so that the less privileged among us do not have to bear this burden inflicted on them by the PTI govt," he wrote.
Reacting to the government's decision, PTI leader Hammad Azhar said the banned items only made up a small percentage of the country's import bill.
Taking to Twitter, he said millions of traders and shopkeepers will be affected by these steps and it will also have an effect on bilateral trade.
"Non-oil current account deficit stands at just under $1 billion. These measures to ban items will be inconsequential," he wrote.
"The decision would contribute to a rise in smuggling," the tweet added.