Former prime minister and ex-Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) member Shahid Khaqan Abbasi

Former prime minister and ex-Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) member Shahid Khaqan Abbasi launched his new political party “Awam Pakistan” and said that he and his party would not become part of any non-democratic move.

Flanked by his former PML-N colleagues Miftah Ismail and Mehtab Abbasi during the party’s launch in Islamabad, Khaqan said: “Politicians with tainted reputations won’t be a part of Awaam Pakistan.” 

The party’s launch comes after Khaqan and Miftah Miftah had parted ways from the ruling party following their differences with the leadership in recent months.

Giving rise to speculations about a new political platform, Khaqan in April approached the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) for the registration of a new party.

Meanwhile, Ismail also hinted at the launch of a new party aimed at changing the entire governance system of the country with the masses as core sources of decision-making, last month.

In a hard-hitting press conference today, Khaqan, who served as the prime minister during the PML-N’s 2013-18 stint in power, bashed the incumbent government, saying that those won elections on the basis of “Form-47” — reference to the alleged manipulation in the election results — can’t build the country.

“We are just concerned about power, not about the country. Parties keep forming in Pakistan for specific purposes,” he said, adding that they had not invited anyone to join the newly-launched Awam Pakistan party.

Electables are part of the politics but not acceptable, he added.

Without naming anyone, the ex-prime minister said that he and his fellow leaders remained a part of a particular political party in good or bad times but couldn’t be a part of it anymore just for the sake of power.

“The government consists of a handful of elites who don’t want to change the system,” Khaqan added.

“Everyone asks us if the establishment is with us based on the belief that the political parties are a failure without the establishment. Those who have been promoted by the establishment think this way,” he added.

Continuing his criticism of the Nawaz Sharif-led party, Abbasi said that he had been a part of those who “pass the laws without reading them”.

The laws are made for the commoners only, not the rulers, he said.

Abbasi further stated that many experiments had been done in the past so now we should try running the country according to the Constitution, as the governance system, police and other sectors have “failed”.

The politician said that the Awaam Pakistan founders will reveal the party’s vision in a few weeks, saying that they would neither let the politics of money nor be a part of any non-democratic process.

 ‘Predatory system cannot continue’

Speaking at the occasion, Miftah said that the existing “predatory” system cannot continue in the country.

“Are you running East India Company,” Miftah said, adding: “This system of the hunter and the hunted cannot continue.”

Lambasting the federal government for its budget for the fiscal year 2024-25, the ex-finance czar said that those earning merely Rs50,000 per month are asked to pay tax, but no tax is demanded from the one owning thousands of acres of land.

The tax on the salaried class has been doubled in the budget […] the middle class is being crushed,” Miftah said, stressing that the budget in essence is a reflection of the ruling elite’s priorities.

The ex-minister’s comments refer to the tax-heavy Finance Bill 2024, which was assented by President Asif Ali Zardari last week, wherein the government has set out a challenging tax revenue target of Rs13 trillion for the year starting July 1, up about 40% from the current year to strengthen the case for a new rescue deal with the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

The rise in the tax target is made up of a 48% increase in direct taxes and a 35% hike in indirect taxes over revised estimates of the current year. Non-tax revenue, including petroleum levies, is seen increasing by a whopping 64%.

Addressing the recently announced anti-terrorism drive “Operation Azm-e-Istehkam,” the politician said: “Today we are going to conduct another operation […] why these operations are needed again and again because you cannot end poverty.”

His remarks come as the federal cabinet last week approved the launch of the counter-terrorism operation following the National Action Plan’s Central Apex Committee’s recommendations to root out militance from the country.

With opposition parties voicing concerns over the anti-terror operation, the government has decided to convene an all-parties conference (APC) “to gain political parties’ confidence” over its decision.


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2024-07-06

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