Islamabad: Cash-starved Pakistan’s economic and political crises will deepen further if the early elections are not held, ousted prime minister Imran Khan has warned, as his supporters staged protests against soaring inflation across major cities.
Khan issued a call for protests last week after the government hiked the petroleum prices for the third time after coming to power in April.
Addressing the protestors through a video link on Sunday, Khan said the country’s economic and political situation will deteriorate further if early elections were not held.
I will give you a call [for long march] If free and transparent elections are not held, further chaos will spread, the ousted premier said.
He lashed out at the government for withdrawing subsidies on petroleum products, saying the previous Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government led by him had resisted the IMF’s demand to increase the prices.
“This government is in the IMF programme for two months while we remained in it for two and a half years,” Khan said, adding that his government had reduced petrol prices against the IMF’s conditions to increase the fuel prices.
He also accused the incumbent government of being incapable of handling the economy and warned that prices would soar even higher in the days to come if the nation kept sitting idly .
Cash-strapped Pakistan has faced growing economic challenges, with high inflation, sliding forex reserves, a widening current account deficit and a depreciating currency.
The Pakistani rupee remained highly volatile as it plunged to a record low of over Rs 211 against the US dollar in the inter-bank market on Monday.
Pakistan’s foreign exchange reserves have depleted to a critical level and the country has less than six weeks of import cover remaining. The reserves are currently below USD 9 billion.
The country is fulfilling the prerequisite conditions to revive the IMF loan programme to avoid default on international payments.
According to The Express Tribune newspaper, the anti-inflation protests were held in different cities, including at Islamabad’s F-9 Park, Karachi’s Shahrah-e-Qauideen, Lahore’s Liberty Chowk, Faisalabad’s Ghanta Ghar chowk, Rawalpindi’s Commercial Market, Multan’s Shah Abdullah chowk and Peshawar’s Hasht Nagari Gate.
Addressing a protest rally in Rawalpindi, former federal minister and PTI leader Murad Saeed said, “The world powers, afraid of Imran Khan, who voiced the pains of Kashmiris, conspired against his regime while a bunch of thieves, robbers and corrupt people have formed an imported government”.
Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) Vice-President Maryam Nawaz lashed out at Khan for holding protests against the incumbent government, blaming the previous regime’s flawed policies for runaway inflation.
“The Pakistani nation needs a self-sufficient leader,” she said, adding that Khan’s inflation protest was against his own flawed policies.
In a tweet, she said, Fitna [mischief] Khan had given a protest call against inflation for which he himself was responsible.
She said the country was facing very serious challenges mostly created by Khan who used to say that he did not come to power for fixing rates of potato and onions .
Khan, 69, was ousted from power in April after losing a no-confidence vote in his leadership, which he alleged was part of a US-led conspiracy targeting him because of his independent foreign policy decisions on Russia, China and Afghanistan.
Ever since his ouster, the cricketer-turned-politician has been protesting and calling for fresh elections because, in his words, the incumbent coalition government led by Prime Minister Sharif was imported and is not a true representative of the Pakistani people.
Khan has led his thousands of PTI supporters to several cities of Pakistan in anti-government protests. The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) chief, who came to power in 2018, reportedly with the backing of the military, is the only Pakistani prime minister to be ousted in a no-confidence vote in Parliament.
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