Nadeem Malik of his eponymous television program, is meeting with Amir Mateen and Rauf Klasra of 92 News, at the National Press Club in Islamabad.
Tea and pastries have been laid out as they warm to discuss their exploits and exchange notes on happenings of the day.
Klasra, takes a big sip of tea and high-fives Malik, “You did a beauty today! Fantastic job, having [former finance minister] Ishaq Dar on your show! The Supreme Court kept calling him absconder but you brought him alive.”
Malik responds, “Thank you Rauf. I was simply complying with the rule that favors should be returned. Don’t we all yearn for the days when Nawaz Sharif was prime minister… when Asif Zardari was president?
“Don’t you remember Dar’s financial acumen, when he advised people that if lentils are expensive, they should eat chicken? He was before his time. Now you see the American Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross advising furloughed federal workers that instead of using food banks, they should be taking out loans to get along during the government lockdown. Aren’t these sound advices? Dar’s advice would have spurred the poultry industry and Ross’ advice will spur the banking industry.
“Only Asad Umar may know how he is handling his finance portfolio… or perhaps Imran Khan too. Now Asad is saying that that the growth rate of the country will be at its peak by 2022. But what about the billions they have brought from Arab countries. Not just that, but now Imran Khan is going to Kuwait too.”
Mateen chimes in, “Exactly, this government is making a mess. There was no mention of any outlays for government advertising… there was no mention of allocations for taking journalists in the prime minister’s airplane on foreign trips.
“Indeed no innovation. You remember the 2005 earthquake that sort of wiped out the city of Balakot. Now in the two or some years, Musharraf was president till 2008, not all the international aid was spent there. It goes to the credit of Asif Zardari that he used it for a nobler cause; he moved the funds into his pet project, the Benazir Income Support Scheme. Zardari has no equal. He is the project’s top beneficiary.”
Klasra offers, “This budget is all bungled up. Instead of encouraging people to buy better cars, Asad increases import duty on 1800 cc vehicles. Not just that but this rule that the tax will be increased but tax non-filers will be able to buy small and mid-size cars up to 1300 cc.
“Ahsan Iqbal [former minister under Nawaz Sharif] spoke sense that by increasing duty on cars, this government is promoting corruption because otherwise how will people pay such high customs duties.
“On the one hand, they want to promote commerce and on the other, there is no relief for those who have the buying power. The poor don’t buy that much whom they want to support.”
Malik quickly adds, “And this absolutely bonkers thing about decreasing tax on small wedding halls up to 500 square feet. Imagine the chaos! Families arranging for the wedding of their children hiding their faces, trying to avoid queries from people whom they can’t invite because the smaller halls will become affordable. Let us see that to how many weddings Imran Khan and his people will be invited. This is not giving relief to the people!”
Malik offers another news that disturbs him, “Did you hear that they are setting up a Rs 5 billion revolving fund for advancing interest-free loans (qarz-i-husna) to facilitate low-income people buy homes. Imagine the cities dotted with low-cost houses. You don’t give the softer picture of your country with low-cost housing. Where is the relief for the mansions… the magnificent structures that make your country great?
“You all saw that I brought experts, Ishaq Dar [of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz] and Syed Naveed Qamar [of Pakistan People Party]… people who have run ministries. They are the people who knew how to borrow… be it the World Bank, or IMF or whomsoever. They borrowed merrily and things did well. The media did well with all the government revenue. Look now, Asad Umar is asking that who will repay these loans? Will it come from the former rulers’ Swiss bank accounts? I mean, doesn’t he know that it will come from the common Pakistani people.
“Asad Umar has been holding the country hostage for six months. Instead of running to Qatar and Jeddah, he should have gone to the Work Bank and IMF. Would he have been asked to repay these loans?
“The joke is the elimination of the duty on import of newsprint. What good will it do and to whom when this government is not giving any advertisements to the media. Consider the buying power that was afforded to our media community during both Nawaz and Zardari governments through their generous handouts.”
Klasra offers a possible solution for their woes, “I tell you that this Imran Khan government will not pay anyone… they keep repeating they don’t need to advertise… and they can’t afford it. So, I say that instead of wasting our time on Imran Khan, we should go to Asif Zardari. He knows the way. He opened all those multi-billion rupee accounts in the name of the poor.
“The people of Pakistan want Asif Zardari and Nawaz Sharif because corruption lubricates the wheel of development.”