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LAHORE: Federal Minister for Planning, Development & Special Initiatives Ahsan Iqbal Monday said that the previous government signed agreements with the International Monetary Fund without considering the interests of the country.

Talking to the media here, he said the economy will only stabilize once an agreement is reached with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), adding that the government will try its best to shift the least burden on public.

The minister further said that any decision on the dates for holding fresh elections will be taken by the coalition government and the nation will be taken into confidence in this regard.

The minister said that the PTI social media teams were propagating about the caretaker setup to create confusion among masses; however, the government would decide after taking all stakeholders on board about the election date.

Ahsan Iqbal said Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan was trying to create unrest and polarisation through hybrid warfare tools, but the coalition government would not allow anyone to destabilise the country. Since 2014, the PML-N leader continued, the former premier had indulged in politics of hatred and instigation.

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“He is spreading polarisation in the country and is trying to create differences between the public and the leaders.” Iqbal also asserted that Imran’s politics was not only objectionable but also hurt the sovereignty and integrity of the country. “His politics is unacceptable in a country which is an atomic power.”

He said the coalition government, led by Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) believed in democracy and provision of fundamental rights to people. Therefore, it would not hinder peaceful demonstrations, but if anyone would try to create anarchy and take the law into one’s hands, strict action would be taken against him.

To another query, he said that the PTI government policies caused severe damage to the economy during the last four years, due to which inflation increased and the development sectors faced downward trends. That economic mess needed time to be fixed, the minister said adding that the PTI government would have to be answerable about their economic policies.

Ahsan Iqbal said the PML-N government, during its tenure, planned setting up nine special economic zones (SEZs) till 2020, but the PTI government neglected the sector and did not establish even a single economic zone till 2022.

He said that the PTI government also ignored Gwadar port development including port dragging process, which was part of China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (EPEC) as they did not clear the financial bills and also not provided other resources needed to develop the port.

Earlier, addressing the ground-breaking ceremony of the Higher Education Commission-Seerat Centre for Gender Studies & Rights of Women at Johar Town, Ahsan Iqbal said that the project would focus on how to counter the challenge of hate speech and Islamophobia through development of research-based culture in the study of Islam.

He criticised the previous government’s performance on the development front, saying its “failures and inability to decrease the deficit” had led to a reduction in the uplift budget’s size.

The Public Sector Development Programme (PSDP) was initially allocated Rs 900 billion for current fiscal year 2021-22, which had now been reduced to Rs 480 billion, he said and added the National Highways Authority was given Rs 319 billion in the fiscal year 2019 budget and they now required Rs 460 billion, but their budget had been reduced to Rs 91 billion by the PTI government.

He said that the government would have to restore targets from the previous fiscal year for reducing deficit in the new budget.

He added that the government would also face other constraints, including conditions set by the IMF but it would try to increase the development budget as much as it could while maintaining financial discipline.

HEC Executive Director Dr Shaista Sohail, vice chancellors of public and private universities, educationists and others were also present.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2022

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