Federal Energy Minister Hammad Azhar has brushed aside claims from the Opposition Leader in the National Assembly Shehbaz Sharif about rising inflation and unemployment terming them as "an attempt at deception."
The opposition leader on Saturday addressed a press conference in Lahore and blasted the government for its deal with the IMF which, he declared, was a major cause of inflation. Shehbaz Sharif also announced that the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) would soon launch a march against the government.
The former Punjab chief minister, who is often projected as a better administrator, had barely ended his media engagement that Hammad Azhar responded with his arguments.
The federal energy minister said that if the PTI had followed the PMLN policies after taking power in August 2018, the country would have defaulted on its debt in October or November the same year.
"We rejected their policy and saved the economy and it led to an increase in the foreign exchange reserves and now were are projecting 5% growth."
"The second occasion when we rejected their recommendation was during the coronavirus epedimic," he said.
He said when Shehbaz returned from London after the Covid-19 hit the country, he recommended a blanket lockdown. "If we had done that, today the inflation rate in the country would have increased three or four folds," the minister said.
"He was wrong then, and he is wrong now," Azhar asserted.
He said inflation in the country was rising due to international price-hike, not because of government policies. Everything on the international market has become expensive, he said.
Azhar said once international prices came down, Pakistani consumers would also experience price reduction and some initial signs had already appeared.
He said people should be told the truth about inflation as well as the unemployment rate.
The minister said that the country's growth rate was at 5%, and an economy with a 5% growth rate creates plenty of employment opportunities. He rejected the claim that unemployment was on the rise.
He cited a recent World Bank report which, according to him, indicated that the number of people living below the poverty line in Pakistan has declined even during the "tough times of coronavirus" epidemic.
Azhar termed Shehbaz Sharif's claims about rising unemployment and inflation as "an attempt at deception."
What Shehbaz Sharif said
Earlier, Shehbaz Sharif said the opposition would not allow more time to the PTI government and a long march would be announced after the PDM meeting on December 6.
He said Pakistan should have broken free from the IMF, but the PTI government had made the country subservient to the Fund.
Referring to the conditions set by the IMF for the next loan tranche, Shehbaz condemned the increase in the petroleum development levy and general sales tax.
He also blasted the government for its failure to provide natural gas to homes and industries during the winter.
"To say the Imran Khan government is honest, would be the biggest lie," he said.
The opposition leader said his party supported the voting rights for overseas Pakistanis but opposed the method proposed by the PTI. Many countries including Germany have stopped using the electronic voting machines (EVMs), but the PTI wants to use overseas voters for poll rigging, he said.
Shehbaz condemned the Sialkot lynching of a Sri Lankan national. He also said that under an international "plan" Pakistan remains on the FATF grey-list so that the country could be pressured by the foreign powers.