ISLAMABAD: Information Minister Marriyum Aurangzeb announced on Thursday the federal government had devised an economic plan in a bid to steer the country out of financial turmoil and "for the first time", a complete ban had been imposed on the import of luxury and non-essential items.
"This is an emergency situation and Pakistanis will have to make sacrifices under the economic plan. This will have a quick impact on foreign reserves. The ban will have an impact of $6 billion [Rs1.2 trillion]," the minister said during a press conference.
Aurangzeb added that the government's focus was to reduce imports and, therefore, it was about to introduce an export-oriented policy, which would benefit the local industry and producers.
The information minister said Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif was working "day and night to stabilise the economy" and had decided to ban the import of all items that were not in the use of common people. She said the ban on imports covered food items, decoration items and luxury vehicles, as she noted that the country was facing a "tough economic situation due to the previous government's policies".
Separately, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif Thursday said his decision to ban the import of luxury items would save precious foreign exchange. "We will practise austerity and 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 government," the PM said on his twitter account.
The coalition government has decided to ban the import of the following items: Mobile-phones, home appliances, fruits and dry fruits (except from Afghanistan), crockery, private weapons and ammunition, shoes, chandeliers and lighting (except energy savers), headphones and loudspeakers, sauces, ketchup, etc., doors and window frames, travelling bags and suitcases, sanitary ware, fish and frozen fish, carpets (except from Afghanistan), preserved fruits, tissue paper, furniture, shampoos, automobile, confectionary, luxury mattresses and sleeping bags, jams and jelly, cornflakes, bathroom ware/ toiletries, heaters/ blowers, sunglasses, kitchenware, aerated water, frozen meat, juices, pasta, etc., ice-cream, cigarettes, shaving goods, luxury leather apparel, musical instruments, salon items like hairdryers, etc., chocolates.
The information minister said the announcement was a part of the fiscal plan devised by the current government to overcome the PTI's 'incompetent' policies. Berating the PTI for calling out the incumbent government on the economic turmoil, Ms Aurangzeb said the Imran Khan-led government hiked prices, took historic loans, committed "economic terrorism", and played with the country's economy by subsidising petroleum products.
The information minister noted that the PTI government went against the agreement it had made with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) by subsidising the price of petroleum products. "Now, we cannot come out of the conditions put forth by the IMF for Pakistan. But despite that, instead of shifting the burden of conspirators on Pakistanis, the PMLN and its allies do not plan on doing this, as it has never been their manifesto," Ms Aurangzeb said.
The information minister said the previous government did not have an economic plan. "[Ex-prime minister] Imran Khan would often say that he was not in power to know about the rates of tomatoes."
"They [PTI] first exported sugar, then imported it and sold it at Rs120, whereas, during the PMLN's tenure, it stood at Rs62 per kg. And during their tenure, women stood for a kilo of sugar in long queues. Don't they have any shame? Do they think that the people of Pakistan have forgotten all this?"
Responding to the PTI and Imran Khan's repeated demands of snap polls, Aurangzeb said it was the government's job to conduct elections across the country, whether the party "cries or shouts".
"If your [PTI's] objective was to conduct snap polls, you would have done it during your tenure and dissolved the assemblies. But since you thought that the allies would stand by you, you stuck on to the seat of power." She said now he [Imran Khan] had become a laughing stock for everyone, adding that the government will hold elections "when it wishes to".
The information minister, in response to Khan's question of why did courts open at midnight, said the courts had opened their doors to stop a person from violating the Constitution. Aurangzeb said the previous government did not have a plan and would abuse the institutions. "But this government will steer the country out of crisis."
The minister said that PM Shehbaz, unlike Khan, looks at the price of sugar, wheat, and tomatoes before going to sleep and was constantly planning on ways to provide relief to people. "We have the capacity and experience to stabilise the economy [...] unlike Imran Khan during whose tenure dollar's rate increased substantially," she said.