Islamabad, Oct 20 (EFE).- Opposition parties in Pakistan launched countrywide protests on Wednesday over inflation and price hike of essential commodities, and demanded early elections.
The Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM), initially an alliance of 10 parties including Pakistan Muslim League (PMLN), Pakistan Peoples Party, Islamist Jamiat Ulema-e Islam (F) and others, was formed in September 2020 to topple the government led by Prime Minister Imran Khan.
Hundreds of demonstrators gathered in the garrison city of Rawalpindi to kick start a series of anti-governemnt protests called by the PDM.
“Thief of flour, sugar, leave us alone,” shouted the protesters in Urdu language. “We are dying of hunger, alas, alas.”
However, no significant leaders from the opposition showed up at the rally, which also drew little media attention due to un-announced curbs on the media regarding airing of anti-government protests.
PDM spokesperson Hafiz Hamdullah confirmed to EFE that protests were held all across the country but the media “is not showing them.”
Prime Minister Khan won the 2018 general elections on the popular promise to end corruption and strengthen country’s staggering economy, a promise he has so far failed to deliver on.
Although Khan’s government has launched several social welfare programs, including free healthcare services, among others, they only cover a fraction of the country’s 220 million population.
“They (the government) have failed to deliver. Our only demand is fresh elections,” said Hamdullah, adding that these protests were “only the beginning and it will get bigger in coming days.”
The country is currently witnessing high inflation with the prices of several essential commodities escalating significantly.
According to Forex Association of Pakistan, the US dollar touched a historic high of 173.50 against the Pakistani Rupee in the interbank market on Oct 20.
Gasoline in the country is sold at Rs137.79 ($0.79) per liter, highest ever in Pakistan’s history.
Governance, inflation, price hike and corruption still remain one of the major challenges for the government.
Pakistan ranked 124 out of 180 countries – dropping four spots over the previous year – in the 2020 Corruption Perceptions Index by Transparency International.
According to Asian Development Bank, country’s GDP was expected to grow by 3.9 percent in 2021 and inflation forecast was at 8.9 percent in 2021.
GDP growth stood at 5.8 percent and inflation at less than four percent in 2018 before Khan took office. EFE