Pakistan's borrowing policy since the last decade has almost brought the country to the brink. The previous governments' disastrous policies have indebted the country for generations to come but Imran Khan's Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf has also been no less in pushing Pakistan on the verge of an economic crisis.
The rhetoric was exposed once again when a Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) plane was held back by the Malaysian authorities on Friday over a British court case.
An airline spokesman informed Reuters that the Boeing 777 aircraft was seized following a court order in a case involved a $14 million lease dispute.
AerCap's lease dispute
According to a copy of the orders, passed by the Kuala Lumpur High Court on Thursday, received by Reuters, the plaintiff of the case is learned to be Peregrine Aviation Charlie Limited and the matter pertains to two jets leased to PIA by Dublin-based AerCap, the world's largest aircraft lessor, in 2015.
They are part of a portfolio that AerCap sold to Peregrine Aviation Co Ltd, an investment unit of NCB Capital, the brokerage arm of National Commercial Bank SJSC, in 2018.
According to the interim injunction, PIA is not allowed to move two aircraft in its fleet – a Boeing 777- 200ER with serial number 32716 and a Boeing 777- 200ER with serial number 32717 – once they have landed in Kuala Lumpur until a further hearing on the matter scheduled to be held later this month, reports said.
Tracking data from Flightradar24 showed only one of the two Boeing 777s covered by the court order is currently in Kuala Lumpur, while the other was last recorded in Karachi last month.
Add-on to PIA's financial struggle
Malaysia Airports Holdings Berhad, the country's airport operator, and its subsidiary were ordered to make sure that the aircraft did not leave Kuala Lumpur Airport, reports said further.
Meanwhile, PIA, in a statement, described the situation as "unacceptable" and said it had asked for support from Imran's government to raise the matter diplomatically.
PIA has already incurred a loss of more than $4 billion, especially after flights were grounded last year due to the coronavirus pandemic.
After it resumed operations in May, a domestic PIA flight crash in Karachi killed 97 of 99 people on board.
The incident is important to note because Pakistan's aviation industry was then hit by a scandal in which pilots were found to hold "dubious" licences - prompting a number of countries to ban PIA from operating flights in their jurisdictions. Situation turned out so bad that even the European Union had suspended the PIA from flying over its airspace for nearly six months citing safety compliance concerns.
Where is Pakistan spending its loans?
Ayesha Siddiqa, in one of her reports published by Al Jazeera last year, had stated that Imran's government, which already relishes the support of the military institutions, seems more interested in keeping the military content than providing support for struggling citizens despite keeping the COVID-19 challenges in view.
The report said that Islamabad had allocated $7.85 billion for defence and merely $151 million for health in the budget for the financial year 2020-2021. It represented a nearly 12 per cent rise in the country's defence spending compared to that of 2019's financial year.
In order to escape hard questions put up by the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Pakistan then had refused to be fully transparent about its military spending. But if major acquisitions by the armed forces, which were not reflected in 2020-21 budget, according to the report, were to be accumulated, then the country's defence spending would have been even higher – somewhere around $11 billion.
The economy was underperforming even before the onset of COVID-19, surviving on an IMF loan package of $6 billion. Now the only thing that changed following the coronavirus outbreak, was that the economy recorded a negative growth by -1.5 percent, with an additional challenge of feeding some 25 million poor families who were not able to make a living due to the pandemic any longer.
When will Imran Khan learn?
It is now understood why Pakistan's people do not panic while paying (Pakistani Rupaya) Rs 106 for per litre petrol. Thanks to their prime minister, who has made repeatedly made his people "stay strong" amid the rising inflation owing to the unpaid debt crisis.
Before slamming the previous governments for their irrational policies, Imran needs to question the role of ISI and the money spent behind sponsoring state-funded terrorism. Why do Zakir-ur Rehman Lakhvi and Hafiz Saeed require billions of additional expenses while being jailed?
The 'National risk assessment of money laundering and terrorist financing 2020' analysis, compiled by the UK Treasury and Home Office and released last month, found that criminals continue to purchase high-value assets, such as real estate, precious gems and jewellery to launder illicit funds, which are transferred from Pakistan to the UK and vice versa.
The premier has regularly used international platforms to blame how his predecessors used to stay in the most luxurious and expensive hotels during foreign visits. But Imran is unlike them or rather even better, simply ignoring the nepotism and crony capitalism under his nose or auctioning PM House vehicles and buffalos to show off fake austerity moves. NOT TO FORGET, while he uses a state-owned helicopter to travel from the PM Secretariat to Bani Gala, a trip which costs around (Pakistani) Rs 1,28,000 of the taxpayers' money — just one way!