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6 things about PTI govt that’ll baffle you if you’re relying too much on TV for information

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The PTI has taken charge only recently and within these first few weeks they’ve made some huge decisions ‘for the first time in the history of Pakistan’. Here is a short list of those ‘historic’ decisions.

  • PM House vehicles on sale

Of the 102 PM House vehicles put up for the auction, 61 were sold. What happens to those not sold? The government estimated that around Rs 2 billion would be raised by the sale of the vehicles, which included 4 bullet-proof limousines whose combined value was estimated at Rs 1 billion. Also, how much was spent on the ads placed in the newspapers and on the video clips made to share on social media about the auction? It has been reported that the auction fetched in the region of Rs 200 million, a mere one-tenth of the amount that the PTI government had hoped to collect.

The PTI did this – which now seems more of a PR spectacle than anything else – because it wanted to show its supporters that it believed in austerity and belt-tightening. However, the reality is to the contrary because senior government leaders continue to have lots of protocol and roads continue to be blocked for their convoys to pass, just like in Purana Pakistan.

  • Auctioning buffaloes

Eight buffaloes kept at the Prime Minister House were sold off for Rs 2.03 million. Some days before the auction a PTI senator known to be close to the PM took TV cameras and reporters to where the buffalos were kept and said that the buffaloes were ‘happy because they knew that their freedom was coming quite soon’. Yet another PR gimmick. What are we hoping to achieve? Will these Rs 2.03 million help towards reducing the debt burden or add to the dam fund, or, for that matter, help in cutting down the fiscal deficit? In this case too, it has yet to be disclosed how much was spent on the ads for the auction including the video clips made on them for social media.

  • The gasbomb

On average, gas prices are set to rise by a whopping 43%. For those with higher usage, the rise could be as much as 186% and there’s hardly been any discussion on this on TV channels. The impact of such a rise is manifold, not least cost-push inflation since gas is a major input for industry and business and such a significant increase will lead to an increase in the cost of production, and this in turn will lead to a rise in the price of goods and services in general. Furthermore, the increase means that CNG will now be costlier than petrol and that the CNG industry, with its hundreds of filling stations providing employment to tens of thousands of people, will die a painful death.

  • A bailout?

The government and in particular the finance minister have dilly-dallied on the issue of whether Pakistan will go to the IMF to seek a bailout. Earlier last week, a meeting was held with an IMF delegation and we saw the finance minister taking a U-turn from his earlier statements that the GoP would not seek an IMF bailout. He even went on to say that the meeting that had taken place could be the basis for a potential bailout. Given the context, it would be fair to assume that the GoP, in all likelihood, has – at the very least – already initiated the bailout talks phase.

  • The committee for curbing free speech

The Information Ministry announced that it was setting up a special committee which would vet all ads that the government releases to the print and electronic media. This usually runs into billions of rupees and this is the first time that such a committee has been set up by any government. The information minister himself will head it and it will include information ministers of all provinces except Sindh (surprise surprise) and Senator Faisal Javed. The senator is said to have played a lead role in the video clips that were made for the auction of vehicles at the PM House and is also believed to be closely linked to an ad/media agency.

The All Pakistan Newspapers Society (APNS) has strongly criticized the formation of this committee saying it is tantamount to censorship of the press and belies the stated commitment of the PTI that it would uphold freedom of the press and independence of the media. The APNS has also said that such a move undermines the 18th amendment, because it includes information ministers from 3 of the 4 provinces into a centralized decision-making body, and suggests that the PTI government’s commitment to the 18th amendment is shaky at best.

  • Government of the friends, by the friends, for the friends

The PTI had said that it stood against nepotism and dynastic rule, and that it believed in merit. However, a closer look at several appointments that it has made gives quite the opposite picture. Take the case of Naeemul Haq, a close friend of the PM, who has been appointed Special Assistant to the PM on Political Affairs with the rank of Minister of State. Another close friend of his, Awn Chaudhry, has been appointed Adviser to the Punjab Chief Minister while yet another close friend, Zulfi Bukhari (who is a UK national), has been made Special Assistant to the PM on Overseas Pakistanis and Human Resources with the rank of Minister of State.

Two other friends Chico Jahangir and UK-based property tycoon Aneel Musarrat have attended official meetings with the PM presiding over them. The foreign minister’s son and nephew have been appointed parliamentary secretaries and tickets for the by-elections have been given to close relatives of several sitting PTI legislators. This also totally negates the PTI’s claim that it stands against nepotism and dynastic rule.

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