Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) leader Nawaz Sharif on Thursday supported the privatization of loss-making state-owned entities, adding India had prospered by adopting Pakistan’s policies.
“We will privatize dams and motorways,” he told businessmen during a visit to the Lahore Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI). “I am in favor of PIA’s privatization, however, its name should not be changed [after the sale],” he added.
Stressing that the PMLN was aware of the prevailing economic problems, he assured the business community that the party would seek their consultation before implementing any policies concerning the economy. “The business community of Pakistan implemented our policies and India adopted our policies and achieved economic success,” claimed the former prime minister, who returned to Pakistan last month after four years in self-imposed exile in London.
“If our development [model] and policies were continued then the dollar would have been at 40 or 50,” he claimed, recalling the accomplishments of his former tenure as prime minister from 2013-17. Maintaining that Pakistan was ranked the 24th best economy in the world at the time and the rupee’s value had been maintained at 104 against the U.S. dollar, he said the policy rate had also been at 6.5 percent, which was beneficial for businesses. Today, he regretted, the policy rate had hit 22 percent, which hampers the ability of businesses to thrive.
Sharif recalled that when the PMLN government had conducted a nuclear test in 1998, Islamic countries had started seeing Pakistan as their protector. “Today, the situation has become such that we are reliant on [friendly nations] for $1 billion; we have hit this axe on our own feet and these bad situations have arisen because of our own decisions,” he lamented. “We committed wrongs to our prime ministers and Parliament that’s why we are facing such a situation,” he emphasizing, noting the country had been “handed” to someone who had devalued the currency and brought the economy to the verge of bankruptcy, an apparent reference to PTI chief Imran Khan.
The PMLN leader also discussed his party’s decision to form the government after ousting Khan through a vote of no-confidence. Claiming former prime minister Shehbaz Sharif was ready to proceed to polls in April 2022, he claimed the decision was set aside because “we did not want to give in” to purported threats. This was apparently a reference to Khan’s repeated “threats” of a long march in May 2022 if the government did not immediately proceed to elections.
“We were not ready to come to power in 2022,” he said, adding that once the decision was taken to stay in government, all stakeholders had “decided to move forward without any fear for the interest of Pakistan” and to prevent default.
Also on Thursday, British High Commissioner to Pakistan Jane Marriott called on Nawaz at his home in Lahore. According to a statement issued by the PMLN, Nawaz referred to Pakistan’s historic ties with the U.K., noting these had evolved into one of Pakistan’s most important trade, economic and investment links. Urging Marriott to convey his felicitations for the birthday of King Charles III, Nawaz also expressed pleasure at the return of former prime minister David Cameron to the Foreign Office. He further urged the British government to play a “positive and meaningful role” in ensuring an immediate ceasefire in Gaza, pointing out that thousands of Palestinians, including children, had been killed due to Israel’s indiscriminate attacks.
The U.K. envoy thanked Sharif for the initiatives he had taken over the past years to enhance relations between the two countries, especially in areas related to health, education, and governance.