ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif called for national dialogue on Sunday as Pakistan marked its 75th year of independence amid a deepening political crisis and a struggling economy.
The South Asian nation, which gained independence when the British left and split the subcontinent into the two states of India and Pakistan on Aug. 14, 1947, marked its diamond jubilee with gun salutes in the capital and festive rallies across the country.
But celebrations this year took place against the backdrop of surging inflation, increasing debts and fast-depleting foreign reserves. Inflation reached 24.9 percent last month, driven mainly by rising food and energy costs, as the Pakistani rupee hit an all-time low against the US dollar.
Pakistan is also mired in a political crisis, with former Prime Minister Imran Khan leading a campaign against the new coalition government led by Sharif after losing a confidence vote in April that Khan alleged was part of a US-backed conspiracy to oust him from power.
“We need to have a national dialogue so that the mistakes of the past can be clearly identified,” Sharif said during a flag-hoisting ceremony in Islamabad.
“We need to start a sincere struggle to reform [Pakistan’s] state of affairs.”
The premier said that the national dialogue can commence through the “charter of economy,” as he envisioned Pakistan’s future as an economic powerhouse.
“If we can become a nuclear power, why can’t we become an economic power?”
Sharif also said in a statement that nothing is more dangerous than internal division, disruption and chaos.
Pakistan’s political leadership must devise a plan to resolve its complex issues, Parliamentary Secretary for Information and Broadcasting Mohammed Shahbaz Babar told Arab News.
“We will have to sit together to work out a comprehensive plan to move forward,” he said.
“All political parties and other relevant stakeholders should understand the gravity of issues Pakistan is faced with and come up with viable solutions.”
Babar also said the coalition government could reach out to Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party in the coming weeks.
PTI Vice President Chaudhry Fawad Hussain said his party was open to discussions with the government if some conditions are met, such as announcing dates for the next general elections. Khan and members of his party have been demanding new elections since he was dismissed in April.
“We need freely, fairly and justly held elections,” Hussain said.