Pakistan’s political parties, the incumbent Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) government and the ousted Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government led by Imran Khan on Sunday blamed each other for the economic mess in the country.

Two days after the budget was formally presented in the National Assembly, the PML-N and the PTI continued to butt heads over each other’s economic performance and the state of Pakistan’s external debt, reported Dawn.

Earlier today, Information Minister Marriyum Aurangzeb took to Twitter to share a video clip of a news package featuring former finance minister Shaukat Tarin.

The clip was of a press conference Tarin held yesterday, in which he had said, “They (government) say ever since Pakistan was formed they (PTI) have raised the debt by 80 per cent. It did not increase by 80 per cent in the (four) years (of the PTI rule). It grew by 76 per cent.”

Referring to those remarks, Aurangzeb said, “At last, Shaukat Tarin has admitted that Imran Khan took out loans worth Rs 20 thousand billion during his four-year tenure, which is 76 per cent of the loans taken out in Pakistan’s history.” She added that more such “admissions” would follow, reported Dawn.

Finance Minister Miftah Ismail then said, “Total public debt under PTI went from Rs 24,953 billion to Rs 44,366 billion, an increase of 78 pc. And total debt plus liabilities went from Rs 29,879 billion to Rs 53,544 billion, an increase of 79 pc. The PTI has added 79 pc in 3.75 years of all debt + liabilities added in the previous 71 years.”

PTI’s Fawad Chaudhry, meanwhile, said their government took out loans of USD 52 billion of which USD 38 billion was to pay back the loans taken out by the previous governments. “If you do not like the agreements made with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), then why does the poor government go to the board?” he asked.

Responding to Aurangzeb, Chaudhry said she was bound to make such uninformed remarks when she spent all her time “playing Candy Crush” — a mobile phone game. Yesterday, he claimed the government was not serious because Aurangzeb was “playing video games” during the post-budget press conference, reported Dawn.

Meanwhile, Tarin said that the PTI’s economic performance over the last two years was the best in 30 years. “Stop deceiving people, they know the truth. Your performance is evident in the last eight weeks, pathetic,” he said.

In a later tweet, Tarin claimed that while PTI’s debt increased by 76 per cent “despite Covid when tax burdens increased the world over”, the PML-N increased debt by 79 per cent during their time.

The economic survey of Pakistan revealed that total external debt had touched USD 88.8 billion (Rs 16.29 trillion) by the end of March 2022, having increased by around USD 2.3 billion over the first nine months of the outgoing fiscal year.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif said that the budget represented “significant improvement” in several ways, reported Dawn.

“It has provided more educational opportunities for our youth, particularly from Balochistan and targeted subsidies for financially weaker people. More importantly, it has taxed non-productive assets of the rich,” he said.

PTI Chairman Imran Khan, on the other hand, was still not convinced. “Given the special needs of tribal districts, my government had increased their funding by three times to Rs 131 billion. The imported government has budgeted only Rs 110 billion, reduced development funding, zero allocation for displaced persons and zero increase in the current budget. Shows incompetence and ill-intent of the government of crooks,” he said.